For the first time in history an Indigenous person has been selected as president of the National Native Title Tribunal.

Kevin Smith, a Torres Strait Islander man with traditional connections to Ugar (Stephen Island) and Erub (Darnley Island) has over 28-years’ experience in Native Title and First Nations law.

He leaves his current role as CEO of Queensland South Native Title Services to commence his new five-year role on 10 July 2023.

The National Native Title Council, that Mr Smith was formerly a board member, has welcomed the appointment.

CEO Jamie Lowe says the appointment of Mr Smith heralds an exciting future for Native Title.

“We’re 30-years down the track of Native Title now, and to have the first Torres Strait Islander man of the tribunal is critical. I think there’s a real opportunity there to bring the tribunal in line with the other work that’s going on there.

“We’re excited about that,” Mr Lowe said.

Mr Lowe a Gundjitmara Djabwurrung man, also praised the appointment of Katie Stride, who has over 25-years’ experience in First Nations law and tribunal roles. Ms Stride begins her new role as Native Title Registrar to the National Native Title Tribunal on 7 August 2023.

NNTC Chairperson Kado Muir echoed the sentiments of Mr Lowe, congratulating his former colleague on the historic appointment.

“Kevin is highly skilled and capable person who has a long history in Native Title. He brings to the Native Title Tribunal a perspective that’s built on all those years on the ground working as a legal advocate and corporate manager in Native Title.

“That is only going to be good for the tribunal, because in recent amendments to the Native Title Act, they have taken on more functions around supporting PBC’s (Prescribed Body Corporate) the Native Title holding groups,” Mr Muir said.

Under the Native Title Act 1993, the tribunal assists Native Title stake holders with Native Title applications and Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA).

The National Native Title Council attended last week’s AIATSIS Summit on Noongar Boodja (country) in Perth.

The premier conference on Native Title and Indigenous research brought together over 1300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people for 5-days of discussions, networking, and sharing new ideas.