The National Native Title Council has welcomed the end of a Federal Government court challenge which could have seen at least 12 Indigenous people deported from Australia.
In February 2020 the High Court ruled New Zealand-born Gunggari man Daniel Love and Papua New Guinea-born Kamilaroi man Brendan Thoms could not be aliens under the law because of their Aboriginal heritage and could not be detained and deported under the immigration minister’s powers.
In October 2021, it was revealed the Morrison Government was attempting to overturn that ruling, launching a case to restore the minister’s powers to detain and deport non-citizen Indigenous people.
The Morrison Government challenged the case of Shayne Montgomery, a New Zealand citizen culturally adopted and recognised by Elders as member of the Mununjali people, to overturn the precedent.
Last month Attorney General Mark Dreyfus dropped the proceedings.
National Native Title Council chief executive Jamie Lowe, a Djabwurrung Gunditjmara man, said the previous government’s pursuit of the matter had been a “direct attack” on First Nations people in Australia.
“It was a matter that in our mind had been resolved by the High Court in the case of Love and Thoms, which found that First Nations people cannot be aliens in their own country,” he said.
“For the Coalition to step in and re-prosecute that decision, via the Montgomery case, from the High Court was an attack.”
The NNTC membership resolved to intervene and oppose the former government’s challenge to the Montgomery ruling.
“The court had found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people cannot be aliens in Australia,” Mr Lowe said.
“There were 12 other First Nations people locked up in immigration detention which we were not aware of, which was very concerning, and they were waiting for this decision.
“We applaud the Albanese government for their intervention so those First Nations people could be set free on their own soil.”
In June, Greens Senator and DjabWurrung, Gunnai, and Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe and Larrakia legal academic Eddie Cubillo urged the Labor government to abandon the case.