Records 1981

Makarrata Agreement

Makarrata is a word in the Yolngu language meaning a coming together after a struggle, facing the facts of wrongs and living again in peace. 

The Commonwealth Government had previously agreed that the National Aboriginal Conference, a body established in 1977 to provide a forum for the expression of Indigenous people’s views, should develop proposals for a treaty of commitment, or Makarrata. 

All Australian governments had agreed to enter into discussions about this matter with the National Aboriginal Conference. A treaty with Indigenous people was expected to have significant legal, constitutional, political and social implications for Federal, state and territory governments.

It was in this context that an information paper on the Territory position on a Makarrata was considered by Cabinet in August 1981. 

One of the central issues for Cabinet was whether the Territory Government should develop a position in relation to a Makarrata for discussion with the National Aboriginal Conference and Commonwealth Government, or await the proposals being developed by the Conference.

The initial Makarrata proposals put forward were for a treaty, covenant or convention which could include provision for matters such as:

  • the protection of Indigenous identity, language, law and culture
  • the recognition and restoration of rights to land
  • the conditions governing mining and exploration of natural resources on Indigenous land
  • compensation to Indigenous Australians for the loss of traditional lands and to their traditional way of life
  • the right of Indigenous Australians to control their own affairs and to establish their own associations for this purpose.

Cabinet noted the issues for Makarrata and decided to await proposals from the National Aboriginal Conference which could be the subject of future discussions.

Read the Cabinet decision - submission number 1574 and decision number 1863 of 11 August PDF (1.8 MB).

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Last updated: 14 April 2021

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