Yanner v Eaton (1999) 201 CLR 351

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Facts

  • An Aboriginal man, Murrandoo Yanner, hunts and kills two juvenile crocodiles in a national park where his clan (the Gunnamulla) and tribe (Gangalidda) have rights under native title.
  • The appellant hunted the crocodiles with a ‘wock’ or traditional harpoon, using a motorised dinghy.
  • He was charged under section 54(1) of the Fauna Conservation Act 1974 (Qld) (Fauna Act). 
  • Yanner argued that he had the right to hunt the crocodiles under native title rights granted to his people.

Issue

  • Can native title co-exist with other legislation?

Held

  • The High Court found that there was difficulty in identifying what fauna is owned by the Crown.  Secondly, the statutory scheme does not contemplate that the Crown has possession of fauna.
  • Native title was not extinguished by the Fauna Act.
  • Therefore, it was permissible to hunt the crocodiles in the circumstances
  • There were rights, restrictions and obligations placed upon Aboriginal people in regards to native title, but none of these restricted the man’s ability to hunt the crocodiles.
  • The Government did not “own” the crocodiles.  
  • Further, the requirement in the Fauna Conservation Act that a person taking fauna possess a licence or other authority did not apply to Mr Yanner due to the operation of superior Commonwealth legislation (the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)).

Full Text

The full text is available here:  https://jade.io/summary/mnc/1999/HCA/69


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