11.1 Section 84 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (‘Native Title Act’) sets out the party and joinder provisions. These provisions specify who is a party to native title proceedings, who may join native title proceedings, in what circumstances they may join, and when they may be dismissed.
11.2 The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry ask the ALRC to consider any barriers to access to justice for claimants, potential claimants and respondents, imposed by the party and joinder provisions of the Native Title Act. In this chapter, the ALRC makes recommendations designed to facilitate access to justice for these groups and to ensure that those persons with an interest affected by a native title determination are adequately represented in native title proceedings. The ALRC notes that the need for access to justice for respondents must be balanced by the need for equity for the native title applicant, and the need for the efficient administration of justice in native title claims.
11.3 In this chapter, the ALRC makes recommendations regarding the party and joinder provisions of s 84 of the Native Title Act. These include recommendations to allow respondent parties to elect to limit their involvement in proceedings to representing their own interests, to provide Aboriginal Land Councils in NSW with notice of native title proceedings, to clarify the law regarding joinder of claimants and potential claimants, and to clarify the law regarding dismissal of parties. The ALRC also recommends that the Federal Court Act 1976 be amended to allow appeals from joinder and dismissal decisions in native title proceedings, and that the Australian Government develop principles governing the circumstances in which the Commonwealth will become a party to, or intervene in, native title proceedings.