Native title in Australia

Ashurst

Ashurst's dedicated native title team primarily supports major corporate clients, primarily in the mining and resources sectors, on native title elements of high-value transactions, including agreements with traditional owners, negotiations with governmental bodies, and high-level litigation. The practice offers considerable expertise in native title issues, regularly advising on government reviews of native title policy, providing evidence to hearings and litigation proceedings, and considering long-term operational issues such as taxation and trust management. The team is co-led by Brisbane-based Tony Denholder and Perth's Geoff Gishubl, both highly experienced native title lawyers who regularly advise on large-scale mining, resources, and energy projects, contributing to native title case law. Melbourne's Clare Lawrence is a specialist Aboriginal land lawyer who works with both public and private sector clients on land access, corporate governance, and monetary benefits issues.

Practice head(s):

Tony Denholder; Geoff Gishubl

Other key lawyers:

Clare Lawrence

Key clients

Commonwealth of Australia – National Indigenous Australians Agency

New Century Resources

EnergyAustralia

Rio Tinto Group

BHP

Woodside Energy

Glencore

Yancoal

Adani

Urban Utilities

Whitehaven Coal

AGL

SeqWater

nbn

Newcrest Mining

Department of Defence

Transport for NSW

Work highlights

  • Leading a multi-disciplinary legal team assisting the National Indigenous Australians Agency on a high profile national law reform project in the review of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006.
  • Representing Rio Tinto Coal Australia and Glencore Coal Australia in the landmark determination by the Federal Court in July 2019 that the Widi People hold native title to an area of land exceeding 250,000 ha in Central Queensland, including areas where the clients have significant interests.
  • Successfully defended Glencore, Yancoal and AGL against the grant of a declaration from the Commonwealth Government to protect purported sites of cultural significance in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

Clayton Utz

Clayton Utz works on a wide variety of native title and cultural heritage issues, with lawyers offering significant experience in the space, both in transactions, governmental advice, and thought leadership. The team acts for proponents of energy and natural resources projects, governmental bodies, and original owner councils in a range of high-profile matters across Australia. Notably, some native clients include groups that have yet to receive their native title, with the team assisting them in winning rights to tribal land. Mark Geritz heads up the team and is hugely experienced in native title issues, regularly advising on permissions for large-scale project development matters. Tosin Aro focuses entirely on native title work on behalf of public and private sector clients, including social infrastructure and residential development matters.

Practice head(s):

Mark Geritz

Other key lawyers:

Tosin Aro

Key clients

Australian Rail Track Corporation

Cross River Rail Delivery Authority

South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council

State Solicitor’s Office (Western Australian Government)

Northern Territory Government

Stanwell Corporation

AWE

Australia Pacific LNG

City of Gold Coast

Brisbane City Council

Adani Group

New Hope Group

Oxley Creek Transformation

Federal Court native title claims

Commonwealth of Australia

Lendlease Communities

Queensland Rail

Idemitsu Australia Resources

TH Group

Work highlights

  • Advising South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council  in its negotiations with the Western Australian State Government on a global resolution of all native title claims brought by Noongar People over Perth and the rest of the South West of Western Australia.
  • Advising Australian Rail Track Corporation on all native title and Aboriginal heritage issues related to the development of the Inland Rail Programme and drafting all relevant documentation.
  • Acting for Australia Pacific LNG on all aspects of its world-scale CSG to LNG project in Queensland, providing all native title and Aboriginal cultural heritage advice for the project (encompassing more than six Indigenous Land Use Agreements, 17 right to negotiate agreements and nine cultural heritage management plans).

Arnold Bloch Leibler

Arnold Bloch Leibler brings significant experience to the native title space, having been involved in the field since its inception. The practice acts primarily for traditional owners, including land councils, NTRBs, and community groups, as well as working with state governments on their native title policies and legislation. Matters include negotiations with proponents, mainly mining companies and other commercial developers, inter-community disputes and mediation, and more innovative issues such as commercial ventures by land councils. The highly experienced Peter Seidel heads up the practice, and is a trusted advisor to a wide variety of native title organisations and governments on all native title-related issues, from land agreements and applications for recognition, to corporate and commercial agreements. Bridgid Cowling offers bespoke expertise having previously worked within land councils, and regularly advises on commercial and taxation-related matters for land councils and NTRBs.

Practice head(s):

Peter Seidel

Other key lawyers:

Bridgid Cowling

Testimonials

‘ABL have a very strong knowledge base in relation to Indigenous affairs and in our case dealing with aspects of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT) and the Native Title Act particularly in the area of mining and Aboriginal lands.’

‘ABL has despite short notice always made themselves available for consultations and provided frank advice when requested.’

‘Even though ABL is a very large legal company our dealings are always dealt with in a very personalized manner. Peter Seidel is our Senior Lawyer and he has a dedicated team that provides excellent support and advice to us as requested. On Larger projects, Bridgid Cowling has also provided excellent input around the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in relation to mining and obtaining the best outcomes for Indigenous landowners.’

 

Key clients

Anindilyakwa Land Council

Goldfields Land and Sea Council

Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation

Central Land Council

Cobar Local Aboriginal Land Council

The Lowitja Institute

Bamaga Enterprises

Birrarangga Film Festival

Australian Indigenous Governance Institute

Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation

Dungala Kaiela Foundation

Munarra Centre for Regional Excellence

Nairm Marr Djambana

Namatjira Legacy Trust

Saltwater Country

Black Duck Foods

First Nations Foundation

North Home

Work highlights

  • Advising the Anindilyakwa Land Council on its functions and obligations under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and providing it with ongoing commercial, corporate governance, corporate structure and tax-related advice.
  • Long-term relationship with the Goldfields Land and Sea Council (GLSC) which, prior to July 2018, was the Native Title Representative Body for the Goldfields region for 3 decades.
  • Continuously advising Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation 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.

Gilbert + Tobin

Gilbert + Tobin advises on both the proponent and traditional owner side, with clients including governmental bodies, energy and resources exploration companies, developers, native title holders, and trustees. Practice head Marshall McKenna takes the lead on native title work, regularly collaborating with cross-practice teams across the firm on issues such as native title enforcement, litigation, land access, and development permissions. Another key focus area for McKenna is the internal governance of land councils and other native title organisations, from both an operational and corporate perspective, with liability and statutory entitlements also important factors.

Practice head(s):

Marshall McKenna

Key clients

CITIC Pacific Mining Management

Australian Executor Trustee

Mincor NL

Metals X

Minjar Gold

Focus Minerals

Covalent Lithium

Mineral Resources

Shark Bay Salt

Onslow Salt

Work highlights

  • Representing CITIC Pacific Mining Management in relation in a dispute in the Supreme Court of Western Australia concerning the status of a compensation agreement entered into with a purported native title party referred to as the Wong-Goo-Tt-oo.
  • Advised Metals X on and in respect of the negotiation for an indigenous land use agreement with the Martu native title holders over the Nifty deposit which is 100% held by Nifty Copper,a wholly owned subsidiary of Metals X.
  • Ongoing corporate and strategic advice to the interim board of the Yamatji South Regional Corporation, the regional entity that will be responsible for administering the Yamatji Nation Indigenous Land Use Agreement.

King & Wood Mallesons

King & Wood Mallesons acts as a regular and trusted advisor to blue-chip corporates in the mining, resources, and energy sectors, supporting clients with native title strategies and claims, front-end land access and permissions issues, and in litigation. The team also acts for some traditional owner groups in negotiations with proponents, treaty negotiations, and on governance matters. Brisbane's Scott Singleton leads the team and has a national native title practice, acting for proponents and native title holders on project and land-related matters across Australia. Perth's Sally Audeyev works with both resources proponents and public sector bodies on securing approvals and overcoming heritage issues for large-scale projects. The practice also offers some pro-bono services to leaseholders and trustees.

Practice head(s):

Scott Singleton

Other key lawyers:

Sally Audeyev; Nick Testro

Testimonials

‘Strong skills, well connected, personable, and approachable.’

‘Scott Singleton is an outstanding advisor and negotiator who has a calm and considered manner. Scott leads a clever team and he gives excellent service.’

‘Nick Testro is technically excellent and having worked for both Native Title parties and private practice has an excellent insight into complex agreement making challenges.’

‘KWM are leading professionals within the Native title and cultural heritage arena and are able to respond to all of our client’s matters without fuss. This is developed through the Native title team led by Scott Singleton.’

‘Scott’s expert knowledge of cultural matters and associated legal frameworks means that KWM is best suited to perform critical and complex matters as well as the day to day – as both Scott and his team are able to find a solution which ‘fits’ any situation.’

‘KWM understands that at times, a fixed-price program for NFP entities is critical and is able to meet these requests without fuss (perhaps the only legal firm who are able) – this in itself demonstrating the point of difference KWM brings to the market – particularly working for Traditional Owners.’

‘Scott Singleton and Nick Testro are the most progressive Native title lawyers we have worked with – which includes more than 20 years of practice in the area on behalf of Corporate, Government, and Aboriginal clients.’

‘The KWM Team has a ‘can do’ attitude alongside an exceptional understanding of the legal frameworks surrounding Native title and cultural heritage matters at all levels.’

‘I have absolute confidence that Sally and her team will leave no stone unturned and find the most legally accurate and practical solution possible for any situation. Their advice thoughtfully considers all risks and provides reasonable and innovative options for consideration in situations where the way forward is not very clear. The team is always available to discuss issues and is always willing to provide assistance where they can, even in matters that are not strictly legal.’

‘Sally Audeyev can always be relied on to give excellent and accurate advice and to go above and beyond – both in terms of meeting deadlines and dealing with sensitive client engagement issues. Sally’s exceptional judgement and experience make her a powerful ally and partner in any complex project.’

The Native Title at KWM is an amazing team to work with. They have in-depth knowledge about the Native Title and Cultural Heritage across multiple jurisdictions. The team is very engaging and willing to assist. Their detailed knowledge allows them to think outside the box and always have a solutions focus. They are a pleasure to work with.’

‘Scott Singleton and Nick Testro are proactive and solution-focused. They always provided robust advice with justified recommendations. They will advise on a range of options outlining the risks and opportunities any option may present, but will always provide a recommendation on the best option to achieve the outcome you are seeking. The team can be engaged on any native title matter, and you know they will drive it through to completion and they make you feel like you are part of the team.’

‘Scott and Nick are excellent at explaining complex legal issues in a plain English way. Dayne Kingsford-Smith has been a wonderful addition to the team also providing valued fresh insight. Scott should be commended for his leadership and mentorship of his team and the work that he and the team deliver which is always of high quality.’

Key clients

Alligator Energy

APA Group

Barengi Gadjin Land Council

Bellevue Gold

BHP

Bigambul Native Title Aboriginal Corporation

Department of Defence

Department of Industry Science Energy and Resources

Epuron Pty

Gladstone Ports Corporation

Glencore

Laramide Resources

North Queensland Bulk Ports

Origin Energy

Pembroke Resources

RES Australia

Sunwater

Telstra

Urbex Pty

Westside Corporation

Work highlights

  • Advising BHP lawyers and teams on the application of legal developments in relation to native title compensation, native title implications for grants and renewals, and native title and Aboriginal cultural heritage agreement negotiations.
  • Advising Barengji Gadjin Land Counci in relation to the Eastern Maar People native title claim and the First Peoples of the Millewa-Mallee native title claim.
  • Advised and assisted Alligator Energy in the successful negotiation of exploration agreements with the Northern Land Council on the Nabarlek North region of the Northern Territory.

McCullough Robertson

McCullough Robertson offers significant expertise in native title issues to national and international resources and energy companies, a number of government departments and bodies, and Aboriginal Shire Councils across Queensland. As well as advising on large-scale projects in terms of permissions, land access, native title claims, and disputes, the team also works with governments on social infrastructure developments and reviews of native title policy, and with Aboriginal groups on social infrastructure and development needs. The team is led by Dominic McGann, a highly experienced practitioner who has previously worked in the public sector, and has extensive knowledge of native title law, having worked in the area since its inception. Liam Davis specialises in Indigenous community and stakeholder issues, regularly advising on project approvals and negotiating native title agreements.

Practice head(s):

Dominic McGann

Other key lawyers:

Liam Davis

Testimonials

‘Expertise in all native title and cultural heritage matters, competent advice, astute negotiators, understand commercial realities and government workings.’

‘Liam Davis is a capable partner with excellent negotiation skills. He assisted us with a particularly difficult native title and cultural heritage matter. I can call him anytime and get a quick answer. He understands commercial realities and he is a practical thinker.’

 

Key clients

Peabody Energy

Sojitz Corporation

Frasers Property Australia

Jellinbah Group

Batchfire Resources

Vitrinite

Senex Energy

Evolution Mining

Ensham Resources

Realm Resources / Foxleigh Coal

NQ Minerals

Elliott Group

Bowen River Utilities

Carbon: Land Restoration Fund, Climate Friendly, Natural Carbon, Clean Energy Regulator and landholders

Spicers Group

Endeavour Foundation

Queensland Government Departments: Transport and Main Roads; Natural Resources, Mines and Energy; State Development, Tourism and Innovation

NSW Councils: Shellharbour City Council, Kiama Municipal Council, Wentworth Shire Council

Work highlights

  • Providing native title support in relation to all of Peabody’s mines and exploration projects.
  • Providing strategic advice to the Government of Queensland regarding the Spit Master Plan.  This includes assisting to obtain an ILUA with the Danggan Balun Five Rivers People, which will involve a consideration of economic development, community development, a comprehensive cultural heritage regime, and a governance framework to oversight the implementation for 15-20 years.
  • Assisting Frasers’ with regards to its new residential subdivision, including addressing issues relating to a former Aboriginal Mission, and the native title rights associated with this land.

Jackson McDonald

Jackson McDonald provides long term, continuous advice to a number of Indigenous organisations in Western Australia, also working with governmental bodies on native title issues and policy reforms. The team combines native title expertise with corporate and regulatory capabilities, working with Indigenous organisations on corporate considerations such as governance, monetary benefits, and commercial operations, including the formation of investment bodies, Aboriginal enterprises, and co-operation with corporate entities.  Adam Levin leads the Perth-based practice and specialises in tax efficiency and corporate structuring arrangements. Emma Chinnery advises clients on commercial opportunities, transactions, and economic development initiatives.

Practice head(s):

Adam Levin

Other key lawyers:

Emma Chinnery

Testimonials

‘Adam Levin: Depth of knowledge of the subject matter. Responsive. Provision of advice that works! Fees that are very reasonable. Recommended by other very satisfied customers.’

‘Jackson McDonald provides a service that tailors to the interest of individual clients. They are leaders in Native Title law to which they provide a service that both acknowledges and respects Indigenous customs and traditions.’

The Team at Jackson McDonald are professional, dedicated, and experienced professionals.’

 

Key clients

Western Australian State Government – Department of

the Premier and Cabinet, Department of State Development

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation

Waardi

Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura – the PKKP Aboriginal

Corporation RNTBC

Wajarri Yamatji – Meenangu Wajarri Aboriginal Corporation

Yilka Aboriginal Corporation

Perpetual Trustee Company

PKKP Enterprises

Barkandji

Work highlights

  • Advised the WA Government on the design of the governance structure to receive and manage the Yamatji Nation Native Title Settlement package, including significant land and cash benefits and economic development opportunities in the Mid West region of Western Australia.
  • Assisted Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation in navigating the WA Government’s world heritage listing submission for Burrup Rock Art, and in establishing the Murujuga Living Knowledge Centre, as a place for preservation and protection of Aboriginal land and culture.
  • Assisted Perpetual to design a bespoke and unique home ownership grant scheme for the PKKP Charitable Trust to support the long-term housing aspirations of the PKKP community, and continued assistance with compliance matters relating to the scheme.

Norton Rose Fulbright

Norton Rose Fulbright advises on native title and indigenous rights elements of major energy, resources, and infrastructure projects across Australia, as well as in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Issues include land access permissions, compensation and disputes, and the negotiation of long-term native title agreements between Indigenous groups and proponents. Brisbane's Gavin Scott heads up the team, and is a regular advisor to major national and international resources and energy companies on native title issues relating to large-scale projects, and is often instructed on this basis. Melbourne's Elisa de Wit specialises in planning and environmental issues and has significant experience in Aboriginal cultural heritage issues and litigation involving traditional owners.

Practice head(s):

Gavin Scott

Other key lawyers:

Elisa de Wit

Key clients

Shell Australia

Stockland Australia

Shell Australia

Asian Renewable Energy Hub

Anglo American

Waverly Shire Council

APA

Mirning Green Energy Hub

Chevron Australia

Peninsular Ports

Equator Principles Association

Work highlights

  • Advising Asian Renewable Energy Hub on the development, implementation, and negotiation of a Native Title and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Strategy.
  • Lead the Australian aspects of a global Norton Rose Fulbright team redrafting the Equator Principles with a prime focus on native title and issues in relation to engagement with indigenous people.
  • Acting for Chevron in relation to a complex piece of native title compensation and commercial litigation between Onslow Salt with Thalanygi People and its prescribed body corporate BTAC.