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Law Assignment: Case Analysis of Lawson v Minister for Environment & Water (SA)


Task: Law Assignment Task
…where the applicable law is expressed in legislation the correct starting point for analysis is the text of the legislation and not judicial statements of the common law or even judicial elaborations of the statute.

Taking this quote from Justice Kirby as your starting point and drawing on materials and concepts from JURD7152 Introducing Law and Justice, write an extended case note on Lawson v Minister for Environment & Water (SA) [2021] NSWCA 6. An extended case note includes two parts: (i) a case brief, and (ii) a case commentary offering a critical discussion of the case and the issues it raises.

This task requires:

  • a clear, holistic, synthesised case brief;
  • the thoughtful identification of conceptual, legal, policy and/or social issues raised by the proceedings and/or the judgment(s), drawing on materials and concepts from Introducing Law and Justice, and linked to the idea(s) prompted by the quote from Justice Kirby;
  • a critical analysis of the case in terms of the conceptual, legal, policy and/or social issues you have identified and selected from the quote and the course materials;
  • a reasoned response and analysis of this specific legal context, proceedings and case that demonstrates a knowledge of and engagement with the themes


In this case of law assignment, i.e., Lawson v Minister for Environment & Water (SA), the appellant is Ms. Dorothy Lawson, and the respondents is one of the SA Minister for Water submitted to the judicial law or Court of New South Wales. The legal issues concern the validity of the Public Works Act 1912 and River Murray Waters Act 1915 under section 18 for fee-simple.

A Case Brief
An 85 years old woman, Ms. Dorothy Lawson, was living in Victoria where numbers of age groups of her relatives are buried, and in which the colony of SA (South Australia) overlanders butchered her relatives in 1841 and also, the areas where Ms. Lawson was born, and she considers Victoria Lake as her own home. The Victoria Lake, not away from the rivers such as Darling and Murray junction, has been in the middle of a prolonged legal conflict between Ms. Lawson and two governments of the state. As per the study, it has been found that Ms. Lawson's great grandfather, as well as Maraura generation, acquired the possessory identify of their native soil in NSW in 1848, having resided there incessant for more than 60 years after the British colony establishment . Hence, the claim that has been made by Ms. Lawson is based on the Act of Nullum Tempus and the ideology of unfavorable control or the rights of squatters.

In the year 1922, New South Wales facilitated SA to control and operate Lake Victoria to utilize it as water storage. On this note, Dorothy Lawson's claim for compensation under the NSW Public Works Act (PWA) 1912 as an inheritor of the possessory holders or native title to lands in the area of Lake Victoria recommenced under PWA in 1922. In the year 1914, an agreement was made within inter-government regarding the development of Lake Victoria Area (LVA) wherein clause 55 stated that NSW was to shift and vest in SA a land in fee simple in the LVA . In the year 1917, 1915 Act of River Murray Waters (RMWA) that was enforced under section 18 that stated that lands mentioned in the Agreement are hereby possessory in SA for a fee-simple land. For claim compensation, the eligibility of Ms. Lawson relied on upon identity to the estate in question that does not have any quenched earlier to the resumption of 1922. An individual question was placed prior to the main verdict; was the question of land vested in SA for land in fee-simple as per RMWA section 18 within its initiation, and in case it is valid for the claim, there must be a reason that could affect the vesting land to put out any title of native rights or possessory. Hence, the overall case is all about the compensation that has been claimed by Ms. Lawson for the vested land she had resided in before the government of NSW was to shift and vest in SA a land in fee-simple in the LVA and ask for compensation to Court of appeal.

Case Issues
The issues that have been identified on appeal prior to the Federal Court Full Court were if: vesting for land in fee-simple by notice deliver in the Government Gazzette of NSW under the PWA 1912 was sanctioned by the reservation of the certain rights under the RMWA and any other qualification that can cover the rights of native title and their interests. Hence, the respondents had made a statement of amending the claim wherein the Court ought toreject the application of Ms. Lawson for the case extension as:

  • The deed is limited to actions through section 14(1)(d) virtue of the 1969 Limitation Act.
  • The discretion of the Court must not be made in Ms. Lawson's favor.

As per the said Act, a source of act to recuperate capital 'recoverable by performance asset is not manageable in a case brought after six years as of the date when the source of action initially accumulates for the claimant. Justice Biscoe assumed that the authority influence went not in favour of the submission to the Minister that the said Act has been imposed. Particularly, his Honour pursued Stein J in Dobinson v Lake Macquarie City Council, wherein it was assumed that:

The Limitation Act
Within this act, it is clear that there was and is no time for limitation for the initiation of actions for the verdict in the Court to mend reimbursement for the estate recommencement under the Local Government Act and PWA.

In association with the discretion of the Court, the Minister for Environment and Water NSW presented that:

  • There was no confirmation of unfavorable control evolving in 1848, nor any proof of the title for processing possessory.
  • The main objective of the time limit was to acquire security against the claims of stale.

Although, being expressed by Biscoe J as ‘sketchy, the evidence of Lawson was uncontested and was acknowledged through the Court for the reasons of the submission

Fortunately, his Honour assumed two instances related to adverse control:

1. Under the 1769 Act of Crown Suits (Nullum Tempus Act), the adverse control of 60 years not in favor of Crown was adequate to overtake identify to an adverse controller.

2. In the case of R V Steel, the Crown Act takes legal action to recuperate land possession at the northern end part of Sydney that is on Macquarie. Concerning this, the question was id the claimant had obtained identify by adverse control. On this note, Forbes, a Chief Justice, addressed that the estate in the vested areas of NSW in the King once it was possessed in the King's name in the year 1788. However, as per the Act of Nullum Tempus, the claimant cannot allege title by a continuous adverse control in opposition to the Crown in not more than and thereafter 60 years.

However, as per the study, it has been found that the first trial of the Court dealt with a question of single knock-out that has been asked in advance of knowing and hearing the statement, as delivered for the Rules of Federal Court under O 29 r.

4. The issue of central was if the area vesting known as Lake Victoria for land in fee-simple in the SA state was a prior restricted possession act’ attributable to the NSW State, as discussed in 1994 Native Title Act (NSW) under section 20 .

As per the given statement, it has been identified that His Honour Whitman assumed that it was completely simple that the notification of Gazette contended the three necessities formulated in ss. 23(2) (a), (b) and (c) (ii) of the 1993 Native Title Act (Cwlth) (NTA) and NSW NTA under section 20, that is :

  • It was applicable;
  • It occurs on or prior to the year 1996 and
  • It involved the vesting or grant of freehold land.

The exemption identified in NTA section 23B (9C) in association to the grants of Crown-to-Crown did not impose as the notification of Gazette was: effective and valid to quench the title of native at common law, i.e., separately from the NSW NTA. The notice of Gazette was, therefore, a 'prior restricted act.' Thus, the applicant of native title appealed not in favor of this decision.

A Case Commentary
After analyzing the over case study of Lawson v Minister for Environment & Water (SA) is still pending as the respondent submitted an application concerning the issues that have been discussed in the above section. Here, it can be said that as per the PWA, Ms. Lawson is liable for the compensation that she had claimed, but if the submitted application of Minster has been focused that it also has a strong point wherein the Court can refuse the claim. Considering the argument on appeal wherein the plaintiff argued that the vesting was not a prior restricted possession act as the area resumption was authorized by the reservation of the certain rights under the agreement clause 57 that was regenerated as a program to the RMWA 1915. Thus, this argument had been raised and refused at the initial phase .

However, in the given case study, the Court released the appeals, stating that Whitlam J was right that on concluding that the said Agreement had no legal force and are not able to discuss upon, or diffidence to, third parties any rights of proprietary in the concerned area. Also, the Court stated that there was nothing the Act of RMW to deliver the Agreement that effect- at. The decision of the Court held that there is:

  • Nothing in the Agreement under clause 57 that could detract as of the information that, within the notice in the Gazette, the argue territory vested in the Crown and ye SA right for the land in fee-simple in control:
  • As per the Common Law, it is followed that any title of native over the areas of claim was quenched and that the NTA NSW and NTA functioned in the method stated by Whitlam J.
  • Although if clause 57 would have functioned to maintain the rights of pre-existing rights, it may not have conserved the rights of native title and their interests over the areas of allege as:

Clause 57 points out the rights legally functioned by a land occupier on the source of the Victoria Lake for the usage of water for household purposes or for cattle feeding, or for the purpose of gardening. This statement was not appropriate to cover any interest and rights of native title that may then have been enforced-at 28 to 29 .

In this context, it can be said that acquiring a vested land is some kind of illegal activity wherein the government is not notified or not known. This acquired land is not registered under the government rules under Personal Property Act.

Therefore, it can be said that as per the given quote from Justice Kirby, though the Court of Appeal considered or acknowledged the claim of Ms. Lawson under PWA as per the RMW Act, she is not liable for compensation that she is claiming for. Here, the SA Minister of Environment and Water submitted an application wherein he had made a clear notification considering the Limitation Act under section 14 (1) (d) in which an action is time-barred and applied not in favor of Ms. Lawson.

In a nutshell, it can be said that the vested land which Ms. Lawson was fighting for so long has been still pending and given an extension by the Court. But as per the applications submitted by the Minister of Environment and Water to the court addresses that Ms. Lawson would have no option to compensation for the resumption effect on the interests and rights of native title under NTA.


References, "Lawson V Minister For Environment And Water - NSW Caselaw," Caselaw.Nsw.Gov.Au (Webpage, 2021), "Native Title Compensation – Lawson V Minister For Environment & Water (SA) | Mccullough Robertson", Mccullough.Com.Au (Webpage, 2021)'s%20decision,native%20title%20rights%20and%20interests.

Testa, Christopher, "'We've Got Our Mabo Here': Court Rules Traditional Owner Has Right To Make Historic Claim," Abc.Net.Au (Webpage, 2021) Toddaneal, "Dormant Adverse Possession Claims And Historical Acquisitions For Public Works," Planning And Environment In NSW (Webpage, 2015)


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