Responding to COVID-19 in Native Title

18 September 2020

SINCE the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in March this year, we have all had to adjust to a new normal in society to accommodate social distancing measures that keep our communities safe and healthy.

At QSNTS, some of our adjustments in the office have included:

  • Practicing social distancing – we maintain a safe distance of at least 1.5m from others at all times and wherever possible conduct meetings online
  • Focusing on hygiene – we wash our hands with soap and sanitise often using hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes on high-touch points
  • Staying home if we are sick – anyone showing cold or flu symptoms must stay home and is encouraged to get tested for COVID-19.

However, with Traditional Owners recognised as among the most vulnerable during COVID-19, we’ve also adopted some other new practices to help us continue delivering native title services in the safest way possible.

COVIDSafe Authorisation Meetings

While restrictions in many areas of Queensland have now been eased, circumstances are continuing to change, which means the future is still uncertain for many of our ordinary practices, including the hosting of large face-to-face meetings for the purpose of authorising native title decisions.

Face-to-face meetings, however, are not a legal requirement for authorising a decision under the Native Title Act, which is good news for Traditional Owners because it means we can continue progressing claims and other native title matters even while COVID-19 restrictions against large gatherings remain in place.

To this end, QSNTS has developed a virtual authorisation process that utilises technology so Traditional Owners can receive legal advice, ask questions, communicate with family members and vote to authorise native title decisions from the comfort of their own home.

Key features of the virtual authorisation process include:

  • An online dashboard where you will find:
    • legal advice about your native title matter
    • relevant public notices
    • details and instructions for participating in upcoming information sessions
    • a Q&A section to have your questions answered by QSNTS
    • a forum dedicated to your apical ancestor’s family group; and
    •  instructions on how to vote
  • Video conference information sessions facilitating participation from home or, if applicable, at a dedicated venue with a COVIDSafe plan
  • Convenient voting options including via online or post.

The virtual authorisation process is outlined in the flow chart below, but if you have any questions, please contact us on free call 1800 663 693.