$1.3b Indigenous Land Use Agreements in South West

Kulbardi Centre lecturer Braden Hill. Picture: Martin Kennealey                         d416212
Kulbardi Centre lecturer Braden Hill. Picture: Martin Kennealey                       d416212

THE State Government has come to a long-anticipated agreement with Noongar groups throughout the state with the signing of six Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) covering 200,000sq m of the South-West.

Premier Colin Barnett and members of principal Noongar native title claim groups agreed on the ILUAs recently, and they will now be filed with the National Native Title Tribunal, which will determine whether the agreements can be registered.

Mr Barnett said the execution of the ILUAs was a significant step on the path towards the largest native title settlement in Australian history, resolving all native title claims in the South-West in exchange for about $1.3 billion in land and other benefits.

South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council negotiated with the State Government to arrive at the terms of the settlement.

The native title claims relate to Whadjuk (covering Perth metropolitan); the South West Boojarah (Busselton, Pemberton, Nannup) and Harris Family (Yallingup, Margaret River); Ballardong (York, Northam, Hyden, Kondinin); Wagyl Kaip (Katanning, Gnowangerup, Albany); Yued (Jurien, Moora, Lancelin, Gingin); and Gnaala Karla Boodja (Mandurah, Bunbury, Donnybrook).

Under the overall agreement, an independent Noongar Boodja Trust would be established, into which assets would be transferred over 12 years. This includes funding of $50 million a year for 12 years. Up to 320,000ha of Crown land would also be transferred to the trust.

A key part of the agreement is that in the next year, State Parliament will be asked to pass the Noongar (Koorah, Nitja, Boordahwan) (Past, Present, Future) Recognition Bill, which recognises the Noongar people as traditional owners of the South-West and acknowledges their contribution “to the heritage, cultural identity and economy of the State”.

The tribunal will undertake a notification period during which objections can be lodged according to the terms of the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993. The ILUAs can only come into effect once they have been registered by the tribunal.

Academic Braden Hill, from Murdoch University’s Kulbardi Centre, said the deal was good news.

“I think it’s a story of unity in a way because it is a bringing together of different claimants and is to the benefit of all Noongar people,” he said.

“Particular groups have said they want to come together and not just families.

“The significant resources provided to Aboriginal people will allow a greater level of self-determination and then we will hopefully see opportunities such as education and employment provided to Aboriginal people by Aboriginal people, which is a powerful thing.”

Despite the agreement, Mr Hill believes Nyungar people were still unsure if they could trust the State Government.

“They are still reluctant because they do not believe the Government is doing this for the benefit of the Noongar community,” he said.

“It comes down to a historic mistrust in the government,” he said.“It has divided communities and families and there needs to be evidence that it is doing something positive for the Nyungar community and hopefully will unite people behind the idea.

“This is the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between Nyungar people and the Government. It is not a case of here guys we are done now so go and look after yourselves; this is a start of positive relations between the State Government and Noongar people.”