A holistic approach to reform

3.110   A number of stakeholders pointed out that the ALRC’s Inquiry is just one of a number of inquiries into different aspects of the native title system, and suggested that this is both wearying for participants in the system, and not conducive to systematic reform.

3.111   Nick Duff has identified 11 native title law reform activities since 2007.[173] This places a significant burden on stakeholders, particularly native title representative bodies and service providers. Central Desert Native Title Services said

Participation by native title parties in multiple and sometimes overlapping reviews or consultations is time consuming and costly and often without any positive outcome. It creates a feeling of cynicism and pessimism within the native title sphere and a reluctance to participate in ‘another review’. [174]

3.112   The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies raised a broader concern about the lack of clear strategic direction by governments, and said there is a ‘need for Government to develop and articulate an overarching native title strategy including a coherent long term plan for legislative and regulatory reform in this area’.[175]

3.113   The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples noted that the ALRC Inquiry addresses ‘limited issues’. It supports ‘a comprehensive review of the Act by the Attorney-General’s Department, designed to achieve implementation of the rights set out in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People’.[176]

3.114   The Social Justice Commissioner has called for a comprehensive and independent review of the native title system, considering the burden of proof, extinguishment, the future act regime and other matters, in 2010 and 2011.[177]

3.115   Goldfields Land and Sea Council said that there are ‘a range of issues demanding attention that have not been included in the terms of reference for the current review, including extinguishment and the right to negotiate’.[178]

3.116   There are also significant post-determination challenges to be addressed, including the effectiveness and funding of prescribed body corporates (PBCs). The Deloitte Review of Native Title Organisations[179] and the Taxation Working Group[180] addressed some of these issues, but again it is not clear that these activities formed part of a coherent long-term plan for reform.