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The Australian National University

Indigenous property rights in commercial fisheries: Canada, New Zealand and Australia compared

Working Paper 37 / 2007

Abstract

This paper demonstrates, through a detailed comparison with Canada and New Zealand, that the Australian government’s approach to Indigenous customary and commercial fishing rights stands outside developments in other Commonwealth countries. It focuses on commercial fishing in particular as an opportunity for Indigenous people to more fully realise their economic rights. The socioeconomic outcomes from Indigenous commercial fishing in Canada and New Zealand identified in this paper highlight the need for Australia to rethink its policies to ensure that the same rights and benefits accrue to Indigenous Australians.

The paper first outlines developments in Canada and New Zealand, focusing less on the history—as this has been the subject of many other papers—and more on the contemporary arrangements for commercial fishing in these countries, especially the emerging cooperative structures between Indigenous people and government. An outline of Australia’s position on commercial rights follows, which reveals that state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in commercial fisheries is currently minimal to non-existent. It closes with a discussion drawing out the key differences between Australia and the other two countries. In the end, no specific solution is identified, but rather this paper identifies a variety of possible—and necessary—avenues for change.

ISSN: 
1442 3871
ISBN: 
0 7315 4936 8

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