Top 10 Influential Native Title Lawyers in Australia propelling change 2023

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Native Title: Proponents Lawyers in Australia

The legal landscape in Australia regarding native title rights has shifted considerably over the past few decades. Following the landmark Mabo case in 1992, which recognised the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to their land, legal practitioners have crystallised their expertise in developing and defending native title rights for various industries. Through this body of work, some leading lights in the field have emerged. This article aims to showcase and elaborate on some of Australia’s finest legal practitioners in Native Title, who work closely with proponents in several sectors.

The lawyers identified in this article have garnered extensive experience and expertise in native title issues, advising clients in industries ranging from mining and energy resources to agribusiness and infrastructure. They have successfully navigated the intricate complexities of intersecting laws, state and federal legislation, landmark court judgments, historical records and cultural heritage issues to guide their clients in their native title aspirations. Most importantly, they have successfully carved out a unique specialisation in the law, combining professional legal practice with an immense regard for culture, heritage and traditional owner rights.

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While the focus of this article is on practitioners who work with proponents, it is also worth noting that native title law equally incorporates the rights of traditional owners and indigenous communities. Navigating these overlapping rights and responsibilities requires exceptional talent and understanding of native title issues. What follows are profiles of ten professionals who are leading in their field, working with proponents in native title law.

Marshall McKenna, Gilbert + Tobin

Marshall McKenna is a long-established, Perth-based practitioner with a wealth of experience advising clients in the mining industry on native title issues. Unfortunately, Gilbert + Tobin lack a publically accessible website.

Tony Denholder, Ashurst

Tony Denholder is a highly esteemed, Brisbane-based practitioner who is regularly instructed by leading players in the mining and infrastructure sectors.

Libby McKillop, Ashurst

Also from Ashurst is Libby McKillop, who is based in Brisbane and acts extensively for energy and resources, infrastructure and government sector clients. Her scope covers the intersection of mining law, indigenous land law and cultural heritage issues.

Gavin Scott, Norton Rose Fulbright

Gavin Scott is a highly experienced adviser who works with high-profile actors in the natural resources sector across a wide range of native title and cultural heritage issues. Unfortunately, Norton Rose Fulbright lacks a publicly accessible website at this time.

William Oxby, Johnson Winter Slattery

At Johnson Winter Slattery in Brisbane, William Oxby is particularly versed in a wide range of contentious and non-contentious native title and cultural heritage issues. Unfortunately, Johnson Winter Slattery lacks a publicly accessible website at this time.

Melanie Debenham, Herbert Smith Freehills

You can find Melanie Debenham in Perth. With her specialist native title, cultural heritage and land access expertise, she’s also well acquainted with environmental issues and has extensive experience advising on the development in various sectors.

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Dominic McGann, Mccullough Robertson

Dominic McGann is based in Brisbane and frequently advises both government and corporate clients on the native title aspects of major developments in the energy and resources sector.

Mark Boge, Thynne + Macartney

From Thynne + Macartney in Brisbane, Mark Boge is known for his expertise in future act and court claims for pastoralists. He also boasts of noteworthy experience supporting agribusiness clients on land use agreements and other native title-related issues.

Tosin Aro, Clayton Utz

Tosin Aro skillfully advises a wide range of actors in the native title space on varying issues, including cultural heritage and the development of major infrastructure or energy and resources projects.

Jonathan Fulcher, HopgoodGanim Lawyers

Lastly, Jonathan Fulcher maintains a highly respected Brisbane-based practice, advising a spectrum of participants in the natural resources and energy sectors on native title matters impacting their project development.

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