3.1          This chapter sets out the context for this Inquiry and for the proposals for reform made in this Discussion Paper.

3.2          The Native Title Act commenced on 1 January 1994. After a slow beginning, native title determinations are now being made at a steady pace with between 35 and 45 determinations made each year from 2011 until 2013.[1] As at 30 September 2014 there have been 301 native title determinations made, and 242 of these have determined that native title exists in at least part of the determination area. More than two-thirds of determinations were by consent.[2] Native title rights are held over approximately 18% of Australia.

3.3          Despite the increased rate of determinations, concerns remain about the time and the cost of proceedings. This chapter reports on the views of participants and finds that there are multiple reasons for the drawn-out processes. Factors contributing to delay include the limited resources of representative bodies, the burden of collecting and assessing connection material and undertaking tenure analysis, the availability of experts and the difficulty of resolving overlapping claims.

3.4          The introduction of intensive case management of native title matters appears to have contributed to the increased rate of determinations. However the ALRC has not been able to determine whether this rate can be sustained; more complex matters may be in the pipeline. Just outcomes may take time to achieve, and it is important that priority be given to recognising and protecting native title, rather than to timeliness.

3.5          Finally, this chapter notes that the recognition of native title was not intended to be the sole answer to the question of Indigenous land justice. Land purchase, alternative settlement and social justice measures are also important policy tools.