The Federal Court has handed down two important native title decisions in June. One concerns the right of NTRBs to participate in native title proceedings and the duties owed by their lawyers. The other deals with the rights of a person who believes that they may have been unfairly excluded from a claim group.
In QGC Pty Limited v Bygrave an NTRB sought to be made a party to the proceedings. The native title claimants opposed this application on the grounds that the NTRB lacked a sufficient interest and that one of its lawyers had a conflict of interest in relation to the subject matter of the proceeding, but not the parties. Justice Reeves allowed the application on the basis that the issues in dispute in the proceedings may affect how the NTRB discharges its functions.
The Court also commented at length on the duty of solicitors acting in native title matters to their clients, including in relation to the avoidance of conflicts. See: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2010/659.html
In Aplin on behalf of the Waanyi Peoples v State of Queensland, the Court was asked to determine a separate question involving the laws of the Waanyi People to assist in resolving a dispute between the claim group and a person whose family had not been accepted as belonging to the group.
In a detailed judgment, Justice Dowsett examines the competing evidence as to the identity of a particular ancestor and the laws of the claim group. The Court also considers the remedies that may be available for a person who is wrongly excluded from a claim group. See: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2010/625.html