Following in Taiwan's Footsteps, Australia Returns Land To Aboriginals

Following in Taiwan's Footsteps, Australia Returns Land To Aboriginals
原住民與台灣犬 Photo Credit:幽芳勝山 CC 0

What you need to know

While Australia has settled one of its longest-running native land right claims, Taiwan has also been dealing with similar issues for the past two decades.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on June 22 ended one of the longest-running native land-right claims in the country's history. Under the agreement, which was 37 years in the making, the Australian government has returned 52,000 hectares of land to Larrakia Aboriginals.

Along with recognizing the Larrakias’ rights to the land, the government has furthermore agreed to provide about US$3.1 million for land rehabilitation. In return, the people will grant public access to beaches and camping areas in the region.

The Larrakia are the original inhabitants of the Darwin region in Australia, and their land claim, the Kenbi Land Claim, is one of the longest-running in the country. The claim was filed in 1979 and native title rights were rejected in 2006 before being returned to the people yesterday.

Precedent set by Taiwan

While Australia has settled one of its land right claims, Taiwan has also been dealing with similar issues for the past two decades. The most recent case pertains to an area of 100 hectares that was returned to Aboriginals in Namasiya (那瑪夏), Maolin (茂林), and Taoyuan (桃源) districts in Kaoshiung last month.

One of the most famous cases of native land right claims in Taiwan is the Truku's Aboriginal Land Movement in Hualien launched in 1995.

In 1973, Asia Cement signed a 20-year contract with local authorities to run its mine on land belonging to the Truku at Taroko. Twenty years later, the contract expired and the Aborigines started the movement to reclaim their land.

After another decade of court hearings and legal procedures, in 2014 the Hualien government finally transferred the land rights to its rightful owners and issued land ownership certificates.

Under Taiwan's laws, proof of a valid historical claim is required for land to be returned to a tribe, which in some cases may be a problem as early Aborigines used rivers, trees, or boulders to mark boundaries, making it difficult for many of them to provide proof of land ownership.

In the past three years, the Taitung government has issued land ownership certificates to Aborigines totaling more than 100 hectares. The Taichung government has also dealt with 289 land claims in the past year.


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