On Wednesday, 29 November 2017, the federal Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion issued a Media Release announcing the release of an options paper intended to consider how the native title system can be improved to ". . . better support all stakeholders involved with native title".
The options paper is to consider reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (the Native Title Act) to make the native title system operate more effectively for all Australians. The option paper includes recommendations from a range of reviews, including the:
The options paper is said to have been developed by the Government engaging extensively with "key stakeholders", which the Media Release says, includes the states and territories who were consulted at a "Native Title Ministers’ Meeting" on 13 October 2017.
Autonomy and Simplicity: The options paper considers how native title holders can be given greater autonomy to resolve claims more simply. Providing claim groups with greater authority to make decisions, and more options to resolve internal disputes, is a key focus of this aspect.
Operation of Indigenous Bodies: The options paper contains a number of proposals designed to improve the operation of Indigenous representative bodies which play a vital role in representing native title holders.
Reduction of Regulatory Burden and Cost: While claims resolution continues to be a priority for the Government, as more claims are determined, the focus of the system must shift to how native title holders can make agreements with other parties and resolve disputes. That is why a number of the proposals relate to reducing the regulatory burden and cost of the process so that native title holders have greater flexibility in making decisions about their land and water.
The introduction to the options papers indicates that, the government has decided the options on which to consult, by considering the ongoing development of the case law to ensure any resulting legislative changes meet current needs:
The aim is also to build on the amendments made by Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Act 2017 which were enacted to resolve the uncertainty created by the Full Federal Court decision in McGlade v Native Title Registrar & Ors  FCAFC 10 and its effects in regard to area Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs). In this respect the options paper also includes various proposals raised by State and Territory governments.
After the options paper consultation is complete, the Government has indicated that it will develop an exposure draft Bill for further public comment. The Government has indicated that it expects that the exposure draft Bill will be released in early 2018.
As well the Government has announced it has also tasked an "Expert Technical Advisory Group" comprising native title, State and Territory government, Commonwealth, and industry representatives to provide technical assistance on how to implement certain amendments to the Act.
The Government has announced that submissions close on Thursday, 25 January 2018, and said:
For details on how to make submissions click
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