Statutory definitions

Tjungarrayi v WA [2019] HCA 12

This case (at [89]) reminds us that the operation of all statutory definitions yield to contrary intention10.  The Act said that a native title claim could not be made over unallocated Crown land covered by a lease. While some parts of the Act said ‘lease’ included mining leases11, there was no consistency.

The court held that a native title claim could be pursued because what mattered here was the context in which the ‘non-extinguishment principle’12 applied.  As noted (at [91]), provisions giving effect to that principle showed  that ‘lease’ extended to mining leases.   iTip – statutory definitions do not always determine the answer.  

This case is from Episode 48 of interpretationNOW!


10 Treloar [1992] 1 VR 447 (at 449), Buresti (1998) 88 FCR 399 (at 401).

11 s 242(1) of the Native Title Act 1993, Ward [2002] HCA 28 (at [299]).

12 s 238 of the Native Title Act 1993.