Human Rights Commissioner declares Indigenous property rights as forgotten human right

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, delivers a public lecture as part of the Nulungu Talking Heads Seminar Series on Notre Dame’s Broome Campus.

29 May 2015

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner and public policy analyst, Tim Wilson, said Indigenous property rights were the ‘forgotten’ human right and were fundamental for the long-term sustainability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities during public lecture as part of the Nulungu Talking Heads Seminar Series at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Broome Campus on Thursday 21 May 2015.

Mr Wilson spoke on the topic ‘From securing Native Title to exercising property rights’, reflecting a priority of his term as Human Rights Commissioner to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to ensure that the legal, regulatory and business environments give Native Title holders the equal capacity and flexibility to exercise their property rights.

He discussed this process in an effort to ensure consenting Native Title holders can exercise their property rights and not compromise the protection of the inherent legal rights of Indigenous Australians. This talk was on the back of a two-day Indigenous Roundtable discussion on this matter hosted on Notre Dame’s Broome Campus.

“Throughout the consultations, property rights were consistently an issue for the Australian public, wherever we went around the country. Issues ranged from the treatment of older people selling their homes so they could access aged care and making sure they did it with consent and weren’t being taken advantage of, to people who permanently lived in caravan parks which were then sold off,” Mr Wilson said during his presentation.

“Property rights must be attainable for all, but no one has a specific right to an individual form of property beyond themselves; it has to be secured through effort.

“But there is a real opportunity to reassert the privacy and justice of the human rights of property in one area where it is clearly being denied and that is with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. For more than 200 years, they have been denied access to their lands.”

Mr Wilson said the Indigenous Roundtable was historic because it brought together leaders from across Australia to meet and talk constructively to address the issues that are affecting their people.

“Property rights don’t just include ownership; they also include the freedom to trade them and alter them to improve their value,” Mr Wilson said.

“It’s not enough for Aboriginal Australians to simply ‘have Title’. They must also have the freedom to exercise their property rights.”

Bruce Gorring, Research Coordinator in the Nulungu Research Institute, said Mr Wilson’s public lecture on property rights was the ideal conclusion to the historic talks that took place on the Broome Campus.

“The topic of Tim Wilson’s lecture is especially significant to us at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Broome Campus given our ongoing commitment to reconciliation and improving the lives of the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through self-fulfillment opportunities and the Nulungu Research Institute,” Mr Gorring said.

Appointed as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner in 2014, Mr Wilson was also a former policy director at the Institute of Public Affairs, the world’s oldest free market think-tank, and has been recognised as one of Australia’s best young leaders.

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;