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Audio Ron Merkel discusses the importance of native title, 2008

TLF ID R10292

This is an edited sound recording of former Federal Court of Australia judge Ron Merkel talking about the importance of native title claims. Merkel presents his views about the connection between land and identity for Indigenous people and about successful and unsuccessful native title claims. The recording was made in December 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Ron Merkel (1941-) explains his perceptions of the significant connection between land and identity for Indigenous people and how this relates to native title claims. He outlines the effect on communities of having their native title claims recognised by the High Court of Australia. He presents a view that those who have not met the requirements of the Act have still gained some benefit from having to meticulously record their histories and cultural practices in comprehensive ways.
  • This recording highlights how some Indigenous communities have been successful in making native title claims while others have not. Merkel shows he strongly recognises the importance of native title to traditional Indigenous communities. He says, however, that some communities have been unable to meet the requirements of the Native Title Act 1993 to prove to a legal standard a continuing connection with particular land.
  • Native title was only recognised in Australia in 1992 when the High Court made a historic ruling in what has become known as the Mabo case. The High Court overturned the concept of 'terra nullius' (land belonging to no-one), which had formed the basis for large areas of land in Australia being declared crown land after British colonisation in 1788.
  • Merkel is a former judge of the Federal Court, which makes native title determinations. He was on the bench of the Federal Court from 1996 to 2006, and during that time he handled many native title claims made under the Native Title Act 1993. The Federal Court has handled native title determinations since 1998, when the Act was amended.
  • Hundreds of native title applications have been made, but at the time of this recording, late in 2008, only 82 had been wholly or partly successful. As of 2009 the National Native Title Tribunal, set up by the federal government, tries to negotiate 'consent determinations' that only require formal endorsement by the Federal Court.

Other details

  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Remarks: Copyright Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Content provider
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 2008
  • Name: Ron Merkel
  • Remarks: speaker
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
Learning resource type
  • Sound
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  • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
Operating systems
  • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
  • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.