With a considerable bench spanning sites in Brisbane, Perth, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, the powerhouse native title practice at Ashurst remains a market leader, advising a diverse roster of clients – from traditional owners, proponents, and government bodies, to infrastructure providers and major corporates across the telecoms, energy and resources sectors. Jointly chaired by resources industry experts Tony Denholder in Brisbane, Clare Lawrence in Melbourne and Andrew Gay in Perth, the team’s broad focus encompasses indigenous land use agreements, historical transfers, and native title compensation claims. At senior associate level, the group is supported in Brisbane by cultural heritage strategic advisor Libby McKillop, a member of the Queensland Resources Council’s Indigenous Affairs Committee, and Joel Moss, a compensation claim specialist who counts some of the world’s leading resources companies among his client base. In Perth, fellow senior associate Cheyne Jansen is a key name to note for major project development.
Native title in Australia
Tony Denholder; Clare Lawrence; Andrew Gay
Other key lawyers:
Cheyne Jansen; Libby McKillop; Joel Moss
‘Andrew Gay leads the field with regard to advising on complex matters in native title and Aboriginal cultural heritage in Western Australia. He and his team have built a very strong reputation.’
‘Ashurst’s native title team is pre-eminent in my view, with outstanding knowledge and practical experience in guiding clients through complicated native title and cultural heritage processes. Their experience goes beyond the legal framework and to a deeper understanding of how aspects of native title law can be implemented in the field and methods to ensure mutual benefit can be achieved, both for their clients and for the traditional owners of the lands where projects are developed.’
‘Clare Lawrence is extremely knowledgeable and experienced in native title agreement negotiation, execution and implementation. Her capacity to understand client needs and apply her legal knowledge and experience in ensuring her clients achieve their desired outcomes is beyond comparison.’
Minerals Council of Australia
New Century Resources
Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation
Gold Fields Australia
- Advised Rio Tinto Iron Ore on the significant project to modernise the indigenous land use agreements and associated agreements with nine separate traditional owner groups across the Pilbara, in Western Australia, following the Juukan gorge incident.
- Advised Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr people, who are the traditional owners of part of the world heritage listed Kakadu National Park, on the historical transfer of the town of Jabiru in the Northern Territory to indigenous ownership (including all town assets).
- Advised APA, Goldfields, Rio Tinto Iron Ore, AngloGold Ashanti on the area of native title compensation in the context of mining projects.
The native title team at Clayton Utz remains a force in the practice area, working across a number of locations to advise government-owned corporations and agencies, project proponents and traditional owners, on a diverse range of native title matters; from compensation claims and major infrastructure projects to cultural heritage management agreements and residential housing developments. Headed by Brisbane-based cultural heritage expert Mark Geritz , the team’s client base spans the government, transport, not for profit, oil & gas, real estate, mining and resources, renewables and utilities sectors, and includes Australian Rail Track Corporation and Australia Pacific LNG. The team is backed in Brisbane by special counsel Tosin Aro, who advises both government and private sector clients across a broad range of industries; Stuart MacGregor, head of the firm’s energy and resources group; and in Melbourne by Damien Gardiner, who advises on native title issues in mining projects. Partner Lucy Shea, who provides guidance on project approvals, land access, compliance and transaction risk, arrived at the Perth office in May 2022 from HWL Ebsworth. Another key individual is Georgia Davis in Brisbane, who assists on major infrastructure projects and was promoted to senior associate in July 2022.
Other key lawyers:
Tosin Aro; Stuart MacGregor; Damien Gardiner; Lucy Shea
‘Clayton Utz has very strong teams from partner level to juniors that closely work together providing an integrated approach to finding the right solution and providing the best advice. Their teams are inclusive and diverse and the working environment is really healthy and testament to this is the fact that the retention of staff is very, very high and staff are recognised and promoted.’
‘The firm has considerable practical experience in dealing with native title matters around Australia, particularly Western Australia and Queensland. They can call upon resources throughout Australia fairly quickly. These are advantages that few other firms have.’
‘Mark Geritz and Tosin Aro, in particular, are very knowledgeable about native title and are also very diligent. But perhaps their greatest asset is the way in which they guide and interact with their clients: they are patient and have a strong awareness of their clients’ needs and how to meet them.’
‘The Clayton Utz team has a wealth of experience in the native title field and related fields, with experience representing diverse perspectives on issues that arise.’
‘Mark Geritz has an exceptional knowledge of the law and how to apply it.’
South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council
Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) – Inland Rail Programme and Commonwealth government
Australia Pacific LNG Pty Limited / Origin Energy Limited
Celestino Pty Ltd
AWE Limited (Mitsui/Beach)
Wik and Wik-Waya Traditional Owners
Queensland Government (including Building Queensland and Department of Transport and Main Roads, and government-owned corporations, including Powerlink and Stanwell Corporation)
Fortescue Future Industries (a subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group)
Consortium Land Owners Group – AVID Developments Pty Ltd, Foreverlen Pty Ltd c/- Lennium Group, Orchard (Craig Rd) Developments Pty Ltd and Baycrown Pty Ltd
Queensland Coast Community Pty Ltd
Northern Territory Government (including the Department of Infrastructure, Planning & Logistics (DIPL), and the Department of the Chief Minister & Cabinet) and a government-owned corporation in the Northern Territory (Power & Water Corporation)
- Advising South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC), including drafting and negotiating six Indigenous land use agreements (ILUAs) intended to effect the settlement, advising and assisting SWALSC on its responses to the 138 objections made against registration of the ILUAs and successfully led all related Federal and High Court proceedings challenging their authorisation and registration.
- Advising Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) on all native title and Aboriginal heritage issues related to the development of the project and drafting all relevant documentation for the Inland Rail Programme, a new fast speed freight rail connection to be built between Melbourne and Brisbane.
- Advising Power & Water Corporation on all native title, Aboriginal heritage and Aboriginal land rights issues (including drafting and negotiating Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) and a cultural heritage protocol) arising on the development of an overhead power line and associated infrastructure from Katherine Terminal to the Tindal RAAF Base substation.
King & Wood Mallesons
With locations in Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, King & Wood Mallesons‘ sizeable, experienced bench of practitioners build strategies to assist native title parties and major private and public sector clients across the mining and resources, real estate, infrastructure, construction, telecoms and transport sectors. Led by native title negotiation authority Scott Singleton, the team’s comprehensive offering ranges from Aboriginal land and cultural heritage agreements and native title claim representation, to land access and approvals, due diligence and litigation. The group is backed by Sally Audeyev in Perth, who brings over 21 years of experience and works with local industry groups on Aboriginal heritage law reform in Western Australia, and Nick Testro in Melbourne, a specialist in native title matters involving energy, property, carbon, and charities. Further support is provided in Brisbane by senior associate Amy Carseldine, who joined from Herbert Smith Freehills in June 2021.
Other key lawyers:
Nick Testro; Sally Audeyev; Amy Carseldine
‘Scott Singleton and Nick Testro both have excellent interpersonal skills and provide concise advice and assistance on matters in a timely manner. They excel in their delivery of services, are always available, and go above and beyond in providing advice and managing client expectations. They assist in driving projects and ensuring project outcomes are achieved.’
Barengi Gadjin Land Council
Department of Defence
Department of Industry Science Energy and Resources
Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
Epuron Pty Ltd
Gladstone Ports Corporation
Origin Energy Limited
- Advising Origin Energy in relation to its native title and sacred sites compliance for its petroleum exploration activities in the Beetaloo Basin, in the Northern Territory.
- Advising BHP Group on several agreement negotiations with Indigenous groups for its iron ore and A$1.5 bn Olympic Dam operations and advising on indigenous aspects of a major approval process for the Olympic Dam operations in South Australia.
- Advising Epuron with all of its native title, cultural heritage, environment and planning and real estate legal needs for its Lotus Creek, Specimen Hill, Chalumbin, Burrendong and Collinsville wind farm projects.
Allens provide comprehensive support to resources companies and government bodies on native title matters with negotiations, litigation, due diligence, policy issues, in addition to Indigenous engagement strategies for multinationals in the mining sector. The team is led by Ben Zillman in Brisbane, who brings over 25 years of experience to native title and heritage law matters. The team is supported in Perth by Eve Lynch, a specialist in environmental planning and project development land access requirements, and senior associate Darcy Doyle, who manages Traditional Owner engagement and regulatory issues. Senior associate Giselle Kilvert left the practice in June 2021.
Other key lawyers:
Eve Lynch; Darcy Doyle
Energy Resources Australia
Gladstone Area Water Board
- Advising Warrego on the negotiation of three heritage protection agreements and native title 31 agreements with five native title parties to support the grant of tenure for its onshore gas exploration project in the North Perth Basin, WA.
- Advising Glencore on the negotiation of native title agreements for the Hail Creek West Coal project.
- Advising ERA in relation to negotiations with the Northern Land Council, Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, and the Commonwealth Government regarding the transition of the project from it mining phase to its rehabilitation phase.
Arnold Bloch Leibler
The Melbourne-based practice of Arnold Bloch Leibler is regularly sought out by various native title holders, Aboriginal Land Councils, native title representative bodies, government bodies and not-for profits on a diverse array of matters. Peter Seidel leads the team, advising widely on native title determination applications, Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs), and development negotiations, as well as guidance on disputes involving non-Indigenous third parties. Special counsel Bridgid Cowling provides expertise on the commercial and taxation aspects of native title and land rights agreements, while senior associate Caitlin Edwards draws on a background in charities law and corporate structuring and governance.
Other key lawyers:
Bridgid Cowling; Caitlin Edwards
‘Experienced team that not only has a deep understanding of native title law, the regulatory environment and the various practice areas that intersect in this jurisdiction, but also in understanding where the law fails to address Indigenous land rights in Australia. They offer expert, practical, informed and sensible advice.’
‘Peter Seidel is without peer when it comes to his knowledge and expertise in native title matters. He is approachable, knowledgeable and commercially astute. He is a clear communicator who is able to outline all options clearly, even when complex issues are at play. Caitlin Edwards is commercial, practical, knowledgeable and reliable with expertise across a full range of different practice areas. She is a rising star and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Caitlin and endorse her as an experienced lawyer of the firm.’
‘Arnold Bloch Leibler partners and lawyers have an extensive experience and knowledge of Indigenous affairs and have strengths in working with Native Title legislation and claimants.’
‘Peter Seidel is well respected and has extensive knowledge and experience in working with Indigenous groups and native title holders. Peter has been a valuable advocate and supporter for advancing inequality for Indigenous Australians for many years, and he brings exceptional negotiation skills and corporate knowledge to our dealings.’
‘ABL is considered by First Nations communities as a leader in its engagement with First Nations communities. We’ve had a great experience working alongside the team that all have a wealth of knowledge regarding precedent and context in the area that we’re operating.’
‘A history of working with First Nations communities means that they are the partner of choice for any matters regarding First Nations people.’
‘ABL are very involved in Aboriginal networks, causes and actively advocate for self-determination. They hold events at their office to which Aboriginal people are invited. Their Indigenous Solidarity Statement of Commitment is excellent. It contains many examples of the way they work with Aboriginal people and organisations. An excellent case study of how ABL works is the Woor-Dungin case study. When you read this, you will see why ABL is unique.’
‘Peter Seidel and Bridgid Cowling are wonderful and always make time to talk with and support Aboriginal Community Members who I refer to ABL for pro bono support.
‘Bridgid Cowling goes beyond what lawyers often provide. Bridgid always develops a personal relationship, and this shines through when she is working with Elders and Aboriginal Community members.’
Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
Trust for Nature
CSIRO – Djalkiripuyngu Enterprise Enhancement Project
Country Needs People Ltd
Djaara (Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation)
Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation
Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation
Nairm Maar Djambana Inc
Munarra Centre for Regional Excellence
The Lowitja Institute
First Australians Capital
Wantok Musik Foundation
- Advising Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation (YYNAC) in relation to its application to be formally recognised as the Traditional Owners of the mid Murray region of Northern Victoria under the Traditional Owners’ Settlement Act.
- Advising Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation in relation to regulatory compliance, in relation to its contribution to the Commonwealth Inquiry into the destruction by Rio Tinto of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
- Advising Greening Australia in relation to a proposal to divest ecologically significant land to an Aboriginal landholding entity to achieve the twin aims of protecting and restoring Australian landscapes and providing a base for Indigenous economic and cultural renewal.
Gilbert + Tobin
The Perth-based native title group at Gilbert + Tobin is a strong choice for all manner of governments, native title holders and claimants, industry proponents in energy, mining and forestry, as well as land, port and infrastructure developers, who turn to the team for the breadth of its capabilities. Headed by Marshall McKenna, an expert in native title negotiation, environmental planning and land access issues, the team’s full service extends to enforcement of native title rights, drafting Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs), statutory entitlements and the internal governance of native title trusts. Other names to note include special counsel Lauren Shave, who manages complex native title disputes, and senior associate Arabella Tolé, whose background includes both domestic and international litigation.
Other key lawyers:
Lauren Shave; Arabella Tolé
‘Gilbert & Tobin approach native title with a commercial litigation background and a charitable trust background, which provides valuable insight into dealing with issues.’
‘Marshall McKenna is very intelligent and results-focused. He understands the entire native title system, from the federal court claims to the infrastructure and land use agreements, so he can assist clients in all areas of native title.’
‘Excellent regulatory knowledge combined with extensive practical experience in complex negotiations, dispute resolution and advice on emerging issues.’
‘Marshall McKenna is well-recognised across the industry as an outstanding native title and heritage legal practitioner. He has worked for mining companies and Registered Native Title bodies corporate and hence has a very good understanding of positioning in agreement negotiations as well as dealing with issues as they arise.’
Mincor Resources NL
Australian Executor Trustees Limited (AET)
Tellus Holdings Ltd
Covalent Lithium Pty Ltd
- Advising Australian Executor Trustees on a number of matters including in relation to the resolution of structural issues with the Banjima B2 trust and in relation to a dispute in respect of a distribution policy under the Banjima B1 trust.
- Advising Nanda Aboriginal Corporation in relation to a negotiation with Murchison Hydrogen Renewables regarding a proposed green hydrogen project at Murchison House Station.
Entrusted by a varied roster of industry departments and bodies, resource companies, mineral explorers, landholders and developers, the team at McCullough Robertson works across its various offices (in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle and Canberra) to provide advice on a comprehensive range of native title matters and projects. The group’s regular workflow encompasses native title compensation issues, non-claimant applications, claims of sovereignty to the state, Indigenous Land Use Agreements and Right to Negotiate Agreements. The team is led from Brisbane by Dominic McGann, a veteran practitioner with considerable experience in various Queensland government roles, and Liam Davis, a native title and cultural heritage expert who regularly counsels infrastructure providers, Traditional Owners, and other clients across the resources, renewables, food and agribusiness industries. In Newcastle, Kate Swain is a key port of call for all manner of publicly listed corporations, private organisations and individuals, while central figures in Brisbane include Peter Stokes, recommended for his capabilities in judicial and administrative matters, and senior associate Holly Stjernqvist, who focuses on resources, renewables and carbon projects.
Dominic McGann; Liam Davis
Other key lawyers:
Kate Swain; Peter Stokes; Holly Stjernqvist
‘It is the individuals in the McCullough Robertson team that sets them apart from other firms. McCullough Robertson is a trusted brand among Traditional Owners and the Government sector.’
‘Dominic McGann’s knowledge of historical events, current and emerging issues and his ability to provide critical thinking in resolving contentious issues is unsurpassed.’
Frasers Property Australia
Vitrinite Pty Ltd
Senex Energy Limited
Ensham Resources Pty Ltd
Bowen River Utilities
Land Restoration Fund
Clean Energy Regulator and landholders
Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland)
Department of Development, Tourism and Innovation (Queensland)
Department of Regional Development Manufacturing and Water (Queensland)
Department of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
Wentworth Shire Council
Fraser Coast Council
Ipswich City Council
Aeon Metals Limited
Queensland Beekeeper’s Association
- Assisting coal company Peabody Energy Australia with cultural heritage clearances, agreements for exploration, agreements for infrastructure, and agreements to enable mine expansions and developments.
- Assisting Batchfire Resources with managing existing agreements and forming new agreements managing existing agreements with the Gaangalu Nation People.
- Advising Vitrinite Pty Ltd on cultural heritage agreements relating to objections proceedings, native title negotiations and drafting a project wide indigenous land use agreement (ILUA).
Folded into its finance, projects and restructuring practice, the native title group at DLA Piper coordinates with its business and human rights teams in London on sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters, and to advise proponents on Aboriginal heritage issues across the mining, infrastructure, oil and gas, renewables and real estate sectors. Regulatory expert Rhys Davies leads the team - dividing his time between the firm's Perth and Melbourne offices. He is supported by special counsel Katherine Perincek, based in Perth.
Other key lawyers:
Herbert Smith Freehills
Underpinned by the combined strength of its national offices (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Sydney-Macquarie Park), the native title group at Herbert Smith Freehills works with proponents, public authorities and traditional owners across the energy, infrastructure, mining and resources, and oil and gas sectors on a broad range of matters. Led by the Perth-based Melanie Debenham – an expert in land access, native title and cultural heritage issues – the team’s expertise encompasses native title agreements, community engagement, and cultural heritage issues, as well as project agreements and authorisations. Other key figures in Perth include special counsel Naomi Hutchings, who brings expertise to energy, resources and infrastructure projects. The Brisbane office was bolstered by the arrival of Kathryn Pacey, an environment and planning specialist who joined in February 2022 from Clayton Utz.
Other key lawyers:
Naomi Hutchings; Kathryn Pacey
CleanSight Pty Ltd
Main Roads WA
The native title group at Perth-based firm Jackson McDonald takes a multidisciplinary approach, utilising its corporate governance and tax practices to advise various state government bodies, land councils, resource sector proponents, Aboriginal NGOs and enterprises, and Traditional Owner Groups. Led by Emma Chinnery – an experienced advisor to Traditional Owner groups on corporate and trust structures – the team regularly assists with Aboriginal economic development, benefits management structures, and partnerships. Corporate transaction expert Luke Paterson manages joint ventures with Aboriginal organisations operating across the construction, mining and agribusiness sectors, among others. Further support is provided by David Murphy, a corporate structure specialist, and senior consultant Adam Levin, who handles Aboriginal financial benefits.
Other key lawyers:
Luke Paterson; David Murphy; Adam Levin
‘The team works exceptionally well together and with clients. They are solution-focused and responsive to assisting clients with urgent issues as they arise.’
‘Emma Chinnery is fantastic to work with. Nothing is too much trouble for her and she is always accommodating. She never bends to pressure and maintains a very professional but accessible demeanour.’
‘Emma Chinnery is great to work with, and provides excellent support and targeted advice. She has great engagement with Indigenous clients and works beyond the strict legal role to bring the benefit of her experience and management skills.’
‘Jackson McDonald has a wide range of specialty areas, which it can add to its native title practice which many competitors cannot match.’
Western Australian State Government
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
Noongar South West Native Title Settlement
Perpetual Trustee Company Limited as trustee for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People Charitable Trust and Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People Direct Benefits Trust
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation
Wunan Foundation Inc.
Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation
Kullarri Regional Communities Indigenous Corporation
Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation
Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service Incorporated
Centacare Kimberley Limited
- Instructed by Western Australian State Government (Department of the Premier and Cabinet) in drafting the governance documentation for the the Noongar South West Native Title Settlement.
- Representing Gelganyem Limited, the parent company of a group of Aboriginal entities, which provide assistance and relief to a number of Aboriginal persons in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.
- Assisted Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) with comprehensive legal and governance support.
The Sydney-based team at Maddocks in Sydney coordinates with offices in Melbourne and Canberra to act for Indigenous title claimants, government agencies (State, Territory and Commonwealth), resource companies, and private sector developers on a diverse spectrum of native title, cultural heritage management, and land rights matters. Government sector team head Michael Winram leads the team, advising on Aboriginal heritage aspects of solar farm development, land access, and environmental approvals. Winram is supported by Patrick Ibbotson, noted for his expertise in land contamination and remediation, and environmental and climate change law. Senior associate Libby Sivell specialises in land claims and water matters, while Susanne Rakoczy regularly draws on her background as a qualified archaeologist and anthropologist. Partner Breellen Warry, an environmental lawyer dual-qualified in NSW and England and Wales, joined the team from Holding Redlich in August 2021.
Other key lawyers:
Patrick Ibbotson; Libby Sivell; Susanne Rakoczy; Breellen Warry
Numerous Victorian Local Councils
Numerous NSW Local Councils
Multiple Aboriginal Land Councils in NSW
Multiple Aboriginal Corporations
Warrabinga native title claimants
Wagonga Local Aboriginal Land Council
- Acted for Wagonga Local Aboriginal Land Council in the Federal Court, successfully obtaining a determination that native title does not exist in a parcel of land WLALC owns in Narooma.
Norton Rose Fulbright
Drawing on its considerable domestic bench strength (as well as its significant global footprint), the native title team at Norton Rose Fulbright advises major project proponents and blue-chip corporates on first nations and indigenous issues, including land-use agreements and natives title compensation. The team is headed up by Brisbane-based Gavin Scott, who regularly handles matters in the mining and resources, oil and gas, infrastructure and renewables sectors, assisting clients on ongoing oil operations, coal operation expansion and large-scale wind, solar and hydrogen projects. The team is supported at the Melbourne office by environmental planning and climate change specialist Elisa de Wit; by seasoned environmental expert Noni Shannon in the Sydney office; and by senior associate and experienced litigator Jessica Rusten in Brisbane.
Other key lawyers:
Elisa de Wit; Noni Shannon; Jessica Rusten
‘Gavin Scott has the ability to communicate effectively with challenging individuals, has a thorough knowledge of the subject matter and is, above all, honest and efficient.’
Asian Renewable Energy Hub
CPS Technology & Infrastructure Pty Ltd
Western Green Energy Hub
RES Australia Pty Ltd
- Representing Rio Tinto in native title compensation litigation relating to Rio Tinto’s historic mining projects in the Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory.
- Assissting NW Interconnected Power Pty Ltd with a mass-scale wind and solar farm in South East Western Australia, providing comprehensive structuring joint venture native title agreement and aboriginal cultural heritage advice.
- Worked closely with client RES Australia Pty Ltd to develop a cultural heritage agreement with Tradition Owners of the land where the Moah Creek wind farm will be located.