Legal development

Native Title Year in Review 2023-2024


    Welcome to Ashurst's annual review of native title legal developments.

    This is our ninth annual Native Title Year in Review.

    The last (almost) decade has seen enormous change in our field.

    In recent years, native title case law has taken a back seat to non-native title issues – including the role of First Nations communities in land use engagement and decision making, the protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, FPIC (free, prior and informed consent) and human rights.

    Native title case law has been mostly focused on the critical issue of compensation, and several 'test cases' about discrete issues.

    After a flurry of developments between 2020-2023, the last 12 months has seen a reduction in significant legislative and judicial developments as all stakeholders consider the way forward after the Referendum decision. Other than, of course, the roller coaster that was the introduction, and the swift repeal, of a whole new cultural heritage regime in Western Australia that itself was over 5 years in the making.

    This year's publication includes the following articles:

    Our national Ashurst team has remained at the forefront of these developments.

    Over the last 12 months, our highlights have included:

    • being recognised as Band 1 in Native Title (Proponents) in Chambers Asia-Pacific, a ranking which we have maintained since 2007. We could not have achieved this recognition without the opportunities and trust our clients place in us, for which we are - as always – incredibly grateful;
    • agreement negotiations for projects that will deliver the critical energy transition needed for the Australian and global economies and communities; and
    • continuing to assist clients to navigate the gap between current laws and best practice.

    The next twelve months will bring some important native title appeal decisions (including a High Court decision in the Gumatj native title compensation case) and possibly the introduction of new Federal cultural heritage legislation.

    We look forward to working with our commercial, government and First Nations clients to find practical and respectful ways to address native title and cultural heritage matters on projects around Australia, and, in particular, playing our discreet role in the world's energy transition.

    The articles in this 2022-2023 publication are current as of 30 May 2024.

    We encourage you to contact us if you would like to discuss any aspect of this publication.

    In the meantime, our best wishes for the next 12 months.

    Native title key facts


    Native title year in review 2023 - 2024 (PDF 13.8 MB) - Download report

    Bite Size PDF - Native title year in review 2023 - 2024 ( PDF 0.98 MB) - Download report

    The information provided is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all developments in the law and practice, or to cover all aspects of those referred to.
    Readers should take legal advice before applying it to specific issues or transactions.


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