Australia Migration, Immigration Australia, Migrating to Australia
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Aboriginals, currency

Aboriginal Land Rights
One of the most important legal issues of recent years has been that of Aboriginal land rights. The issue first became significant in the 1960s with the growth of Aboriginal activism and a shift in claims from wage equality with Europeans to land rights over territory with religious, cultural, historical, and other associations. The South Australia government acted in this direction after the mid-1960s, while in 1976 the federal government passed the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, applying to the Northern Territory. These were small gains, however, and during the 1980s opposition to Aboriginal claims increased from within state governments, and especially from mining companies. 

Aboriginal lobbying persisted, however. In August 1985 the government formulated proposals for legislation that would give Aborigines inalienable freehold title to national parks, vacant Crown land, and former Aboriginal reserves. In October of that year, Uluru (then better known by its European name, Ayers Rock) was officially transferred to the Mutijulu Aboriginal community, on condition that continued access to the monolith was guaranteed. 

However, following strong objections from the states, which had traditionally decided their own land polices, and from the mining companies, the federal government dropped the proposed legislation, leading to protests from Aboriginal leaders. This reversal coincided in the late 1980s with scandals over the disproportionately high death rate among Aborigines in prison, and alleged corruption in the Aboriginal affairs department; in 1988 the United Nations published a report accusing Australia of violating international human rights in its treatment of the Aborigines. The May 1991 report of a royal commission, set up to investigate Aboriginal deaths in custody, contained evidence of racism in the police force and more than 300 recommendations to improve race elations and increase Aboriginal self-determination. In June the government imposed a permanent ban on mining at a historic Aboriginal site in the Northern Territory. 

A year later, in June 1992, in a landmark ruling, the High Court recognized the existence of land title before the first European settlement in 1788. The so-called "Mabo" decision said that Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders should be able to claim native title if they could show a "close and continuing" relationship with the land in question. It overturned the concept of terra nullius (land belonging to no one) on which many previous Aboriginal land claims had foundered, and established a new entitlement to land not grounded in statute law, but acknowledging the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders as the original owners of the continent. However, at the same time the Mabo decision sought not to disturb lawful non-Aboriginal land title. In 1993 the Government enacted the Native Title Act, which tried to harmonize the two aspects of the court’s ruling, by setting up a federal tribunal to validate existing land titles, and to provide compensation if Aboriginal claims were deemed to have been extinguished. About US$1.1 billion was provisionally allocated to pay  compensation. 

Most states adopted compatible legislation, except Western Australia, where mining interests are particularly strong and where it is estimated that up to 40 per cent of the state could fall subject to native title claims. The state government, in fact, legislated to extinguish all native title and offered only some "rights to traditional usage" of land. Western Australia also took the federal government to the High Court, contesting the validity of the Native Titles Act. On March 16, 1995, the court ruled that the Native Title Act was valid, and declared Western Australia’s rival legislation to be unconstitutional.

 Currency and Banking
Click on the image to view the full range.

The unit of currency is the Australian dollar, divided into 100 cents and coined in 5, 10, 20, 50, $1and $2 pieces (A$1.28 equals US$1; 1997). The currency system was converted in 1966 from the old British system of pounds, shillings, and pence to the decimal one. At the changeover the new Australian dollar was worth approximately half the value of the pound, the currency it replaced. 

With the absence of a one and two cent coin, the price of commodities gets rounded of to the nearest cent when it's time to pay up.

The first Australian bank was established in Sydney in 1817. The Reserve Bank of Australia, established in 1911, is the central bank and bank of issue including note issue. The banking system includes the components of the Federal Commonwealth Banking Corporation, comprising the Commonwealth Federal Bank, the  commonwealth Development Bank, and the Commonwealth Savings Bank; state banks; several privately owned trading banks and savings banks; and branches of almost 20 foreign banks. The stock exchanges in the six state capitals merged in 1987 to form the Australian Stock exchange. The financial sector was deregulated in the mid-1980s. 

    Foreign Trade

Under Australian tariff policy, protection is afforded to essential Australian industries, and preferential treatment is granted to imports from certain Commonwealth countries. Under a 1982 agreement, all barriers to trade with New Zealand were removed by 1990. Customs duty is also levied for revenue purposes. Some modification of the preferential treatment policy has been made by Australia, as a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. During the 1980s, imports of goods and services often exceeded exports. Inflows of investment capital from overseas helped to balance Australia’s payments position. 

Japan and the United States are Australia’s major trade partners accounting for almost 40 per cent of all imports and exports in the early 1990s. Other leading Australian export markets are New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, China, South Korea, Italy, and Papua New Guinea. In addition, new markets are being developed in Asia for Australian wheat and other surplus commodities. Besides the United States and Japan, major suppliers of imports are the United Kingdom, Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, and New Zealand. Principal imports include machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, non-ferrous metals, paper and paperboard, and textile yarns and fabrics. Metalliferous ores, coal, non-ferrous metals, oil, wool, and cereals are Australia’s main exports. Meat is also an important export item. In the mid-1990s annual imports were valued at about US$57.41 billion, exports at about US$51.57 billion. In 1991 Australia recorded a trade surplus of US$305 billion. 

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