Western Australia

Statistics

Native Title Determinations 69
By consent 53
Litigated 16
Unopposed 0
Outcomes   
Native Title does not exist in the determination area 2
Native Title exists in part of the determination area 39
Native Title exists in the entire determination area 28
Active Native Title determination applications 84
Indigenous Land Use Agreements 133
Area Agreements 36
Body Corporate Agreements 97

Native title representative bodies

Hon Fred Chaney AO

Mr Hans Bokelund, GLSC

MR PETER YU, YAWURU

Overview

With approximately 92 per cent of the land mass of this state being claimable under native title, the government has taken an active involvement in the native title system. The State’s initial reaction to the establishment of the Native Title Act was cautious but some of the first cases trialled in the State set valuable precedent in the development of native title law.

Following the clarification provided by the High Court Yorta Yorta decision, the Western Australian (WA) government moved to normalise the mediation of native title within the State, publishing Guidelines for the Provision of Connection Material, creating a native title policy which was predicated upon settling matters by consent, gaining a reputation for the development of best practice at this time.

In an effort to manage the intersection between Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation and the native title future act regime in this State, the government developed Regional Standard Heritage Agreements (RSHAs) with four of the five NTRBs across the State and funded positions within NTRBs to manage future acts. These RSHAs were successful for a period, but have subsequently been largely abandoned by native title parties in favour of individual heritage agreements.

The WA government was also the first government to embrace global settlements in native title matters with the Nharnuwangga, Wajarri and Ngarlawangga (NWN) ILUA, the Burrup and Maitland Industrial Estates Agreement (the Burrup Agreement), the Yawuru Agreement and the Ord Final Agreement, surpassing any other jurisdiction in this area.

Due to the significant amount of mining activity within the State, the mining industry also pursued extensive global agreements with native title groups, particularly within the Pilbara region where RioTinto and BHP Billiton, among others, entered into significant agreements with native title parties which afforded billions of dollars of benefits to native title groups.

Most recently, the State entered into an extensive non-native title agreement with the Noongar people of the south-west of the State. This agreement, consisting of six ILUAs, promises to deliver $1.3 billion and transfers up to 320,000 hectares of Crown land to around 30,000 Noongar people once finalised.

A full bench of the Federal Court has determined that four of the six ILUAs have been improperly executed and are unable to be registered, however, the WA government says it remains committed to the agreements.

References
Land (Titles and Traditional Usage) Act 1993 (WA) and the High Court challenge to the constitutional validity of the Native Title Act in Western Australia v The Commonwealth [1995] 183 CLR 373 and the challenge to the legislation launched by the Wororra Peoples; Wororra Peoples v Western Australia; Biljabu v Western Australia [1995] 183 CLR 373
Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA). This legislation was established pre-native title and, therefore, does not address native title issues. A draft Bill currently sits with the WA parliament.
http://www.nntt.gov.au/searchRegApps/NativeTitleRegisters/Pages/ILUA_details.aspx?NNTT_Fileno=WIA2000/001
https://www.dpc.wa.gov.au/lantu/Agreements/Pages/BurrupAgreement.aspx
https://www.dpc.wa.gov.au/lantu/Agreements/YawuruAgreements/Pages/Default.aspx
https://www.dpc.wa.gov.au/lantu/Agreements/OrdFinal/Pages/Default.asp
http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/bhp-billiton-pilbara-traditional-owners-ink-multimillion-dollar-agreement-20151104-gkqzgl.html
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-18/bhp-native-title/4207540; http://ymac.org.au/tag/agreement/

CDNTS PBC Regional Workshop

In June 2017 Central Desert Native Title Services held a Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBC) workshop with traditional owners from the desert regions of Western Australia.  In the following three videos some traditional owners share their thoughts on the future for their PBCs.

Ms Vera Anderson – Wiluna Prescribed Body Corporate

“As a senior on the Wiluna PBC, we work together for stronger culture by looking after country, monitoring water and land management.

Native title has benefited traditional owners in the Central Desert region through a collaborative group, Desert Support Services. This group helps develop ranger work in our community and helps to grow the community and share country.

From having native title confirmed younger generations will benefit from having elders sharing their traditions and culture. I see the younger generation becoming more educated with culture and sharing culture with white fellas. 

Young people are also being given opportunities to work in mines, and become rangers.  This is good for all communities.”

Mr Allan Ashwin, Tjiwarl & TMP

Mr Brett Lewis, Tjiwarl

Mr Roy Bennet, Tjamu Tjamu

YMAC Representatives

Mr Nolan Hunter, KLC

Mr Wayne Bergmann, KRED

Recognition of native title over shared country

11 June 2009 - Nyangumarta determination - with Justice North and elders. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
11 June 2009 - Nyangumarta determination - with Justice North and elders. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation

On Friday, 25 May 2012, the Federal Court handed down a native title determination to the Nyangumarta and Karajarri communities across shared country near 80 Mile Beach in Western Australia.

The Nyangumarta/Karajarri joint determination resolves two overlapping claims of the Nyangumarta and Karajarri peoples, two different tribal groups who share traditional laws and cultural connection to the area. Justice North handed down the Federal Court’s decision at an on-country determination at Anna Plains Station.

The Kimberley Land Council and the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation acted on behalf of the Karajarri and Nyangumarta claimants to negotiate native title across 2,000 square kilometres of land and sea country across Anna Plains Station, a portion of Mandora Station and 80 Mile Beach, in the East Pilbara and West Kimberley regions of Western Australia.

Kimberley Land Council Executive Board Member and Karajarri Traditional Owner Anthony Watson said the Nyangumarta/ Karajarri joint native title determination highlighted how two tribal groups could work together to achieve land rights.

Today’s determination is about co-operation and respect for each other. For these two groups to come together, acknowledge their shared interests in this country and achieve a successful native title consent determination is very powerful.

Native title provides our people with rights; rights to enjoy our country and make decisions about what happens on our country. We welcome today’s determination.

Nyangumarta Traditional Owner Margaret Rose said, “Years ago, this country was shared between the two groups, from way back. Native Title brought conflict because we each had to prove that the land was ours. But through strong connection to country, we were able to show how both groups are connected to the land together. This brings hope that other groups can follow this example and share country in a happy spirit. It’s appropriate that this is happening in reconciliation week.”

Article source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation News Issue 18, 1 July 2012

Native title agreement paves the way for development in Port Hedland

8 August 2011 - Former Minister Hon Brendon Grylls MLA, then Minister for Regional Development and Lands at the signing of the agreement with the Kariyarra people to release land within the South Hedland townsite and port of Port Hedland, Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
8 August 2011 - Former Minister Hon Brendon Grylls MLA, then Minister for Regional Development and Lands at the signing of the agreement with the Kariyarra people to release land within the South Hedland townsite and port of Port Hedland, Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation

A significant agreement was signed in August 2011 between the Kariyarra people and the Western Australian State Government which will pave the way for much needed residential and commercial development of land in the Town of Port Hedland.

The agreement will provide the Kariyarra people, whose native title claim includes Port Hedland, with a significant stake in the future development of the town.

The Department of Regional Development and Lands (DRDL) has agreed to transfer a number of parcels of land to the Kariyarra people, in exchange for their consent to the release of land within the South Hedland townsite and port of Port Hedland.

Under the agreement, a total of around 5,000 hectares of land will be transferred to the Kariyarra people.

Key features of the agreement include the transfer of 10 hectares of freehold land in South Hedland suitable for residential development and land at 12 Mile for rural residential development. The Kariyarra people will also share in the profits from the sale of lots developed within the broader agreement area.

The Kariyarra people will also gain management of several extensive reserves, which include important cultural sites.

Kariyarra community members Kerry and Diana Robinson said:

This agreement will finally give us a say over what happens on our country in line with our traditional customs.

There is the potential to build housing and investments and new opportunities for our young people to benefit into the future. The agreement will also mean that we can practice our law and culture on country.

Under the agreement DRDL will undertake a full due diligence report to ensure that development of the land is viable over the long term and ensure maximum benefits flow directly to current and future generations of Traditional Owners.

The Kariyarra people have also secured a commitment from DRDL to commence further negotiations within the next six months on a comprehensive agreement for future residential and commercial land developments in the port area and in South Hedland.

This future agreement promises to provide a more effective long term strategy for regional development, cultural heritage protection and natural resource management.

Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) Chief Executive Officer Simon Hawkins said, “We’re very pleased that the State of Western Australia has agreed to negotiate a comprehensive deal with the Kariyarra people over residential and commercial development in Port Hedland.

“We look forward to negotiating an agreement that builds on this fantastic outcome to ensure the speedy release of land in the future, recognising that the Kariyarra people have an interest in the development of the town.

“This will be a platform for the community’s economic security and growth into the future. YMAC is very proud to have helped deliver this outcome to the Kariyarra people.”

This agreement is evidence that Traditional Owners are actively working with the State Government to help develop new affordable housing options for all residents.

Article source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation News Issue 15, 1 September 2011

Jurruru on-country determination

1 September 2015 - Jurruru traditional owner Ivan Smirke and his two sons on country, Western Australia. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal CorporationOn 1 September 2015 the Jurruru People celebrated the legal recognition of their land and culture at a Federal Court hearing to recognise their native title rights.

Justice Neil McKerracher made the determination recognising the Jurruru People’s non-exclusive rights to the land. The Jurruru native title determination application was filed in 2000. Jurruru Country covers approximately 10,500 km2 of land in the Southwest Pilbara region. This determination recognised the Jurruru people’s rights and interests over about 7000 km2 of their Country, referred to as ‘Part A’.

The Jurruru People, along with representatives from government and pastoral industries attended the Court hearing, held on-country at Perrys Flat, on Kooline pastoral station, west of Paraburdoo. Ivan Smirke, Jurruru Traditional Owner said:

Native title is not a lease or a title of ownership of land but recognition, respect and acknowledgement of the wider Australian community and its leaders of our nation that the laws, culture and heritage of our ancestors still exist.

Simon Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer of Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation said it was reassuring to see the Jurruru people gain official recognition through a consent determination.

Today is a great day for the Jurruru people. It’s positive to see a consent determination take place, rather than the intense pressure a trial places on Traditional Owners and elders. I hope to see the State move toward many more consent determinations.

Article source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation News Issue 28, 16 October 2015

Wilgi Mia Creation Story

Wilgie Mia sign post, Western Australia. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
Wilgie Mia sign post. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation

The creation story of Wilgie Mia and surrounding hills in the Weld Range involves the Red Kangaroo, or Marlu, with the ochre representing the Marlu’s blood. “A kangaroo was wounded down near the coast. It hopped back through the country and dropped spots of blood along the way. It dropped quite a bit at Little Wilgie Mia, then it died at Wilgie Mia which left a lot of ochre. Then the spirit of the kangaroo moved from Wilgie Mia to the hill right next-door to it,” explains Colin Hamlett.

Simon Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer of Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) said:

YMAC is very proud to have assisted the Wajarri Yamatji people gain this protection for their country.

The Weld Range remains an important place for Wajarri Yamatji families to camp, hunt and collect traditional bush food and medicine. With the protection afforded by the National Heritage List, the Weld Range can be protected from unsustainable development and enjoyed by future generations.

The inclusion on the National Heritage List will assist Wajarri Yamatji people to manage the area effectively, alongside the growing mining and tourism industries in Western Australia.

Article source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation News Issue 13, 1 March 2011

Ngadju Determination, 21 November 2014

Aaron Rule performing the Gibara dance for the Federal Court of Australia, on Ngadju country near Norseman Western Australia, June 2009. Source: Goldfields Land and Sea Council
Aaron Rule performing the Gibara dance for the Federal Court of Australia, on Ngadju country near Norseman, June 2009. Source: Goldfields Land and Sea Council

We have been subject to oppression and poverty. We have been demoralised and have been disempowered. The loss of our land with the white man’s structures and laws that governed our people had tried to destroy our customs and our ways as Ngadju people … I can only ponder, to think about how much strength the Ngadju people had, how much value to resist the force that tried to demoralise us … we still managed to transfer down knowledge, language, the sacred stories, the dances to the next generation. Our children … I’m here because of eight apical ancestors that is on the Ngadju claim, whom I am very proud of. And I’m proud of those people who gave their evidence. I’m proud of the process that’s taken place with the lawyers … and the hard work that’s been put in to try and give back a bit of our land, that we’re entitled to, that we belong to.  Michael Smith, Ngadju native title holder

Article source: Goldfields Land and Sea Council

Goldfields Land Management

Access to land and involvement in land management is integral to the ability of Aboriginal people to fulfil their cultural obligations and is an important self-determined means of economic development.

Rangers undertake collaborative Management with the Department of Parks and Wildlife Services, Western Australia. Source: Goldfields Land and Sea Council
Rangers undertake collaborative Management with the Department of Parks and Wildlife Services, Western Australia. Source: Goldfields Land and Sea Council

To facilitate traditional owner access to land in its region, the Goldfields Land and Sea Council (GLSC) runs a ranger program and has partnered with traditional owners and third parties in projects such as the Ngadju Seasons Calendar, the Great Western Woodland Water Trees Project and the Ngadju Kala (Fire) Project. The GLSC rangers have undertaken extensive work in land and environmental management. As well as providing direct employment and the opportunity to work on country, a focus of the program is to provide participants relevant technical training and qualifications and to broaden their experience through undertaking ranger exchanges and the like.

Importantly once native title has been determined, and a Registered Native Title Body Corporate (PBC) exists, the PBC is the primary organisation for traditional owner land management in its determined area. PBCs in the GLSC area are the Esperance Tjaltraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation and the Ngadju Native Title Aboriginal Corporation.

Article source: Goldfields Land and Sea Council

NNTT decision helps the Wajarri Yamatji People protect their heritage

The National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) has recently made a very important decision for the Wajarri Yamatji people. The NNTT ruled that four mining tenements in the Weld Range cannot be granted because of the cultural significance of the area to the Wajarri Yamatji people.

This is only the second time that the NNTT has ever made such a decision, and it comes after parts of the Weld Range were accepted on to the National Heritage List earlier this year.

Weld Range Metals, the company that wished to mine the area, has been reluctant to meet with the Wajarri Yamatji people and did not reach an agreement over the proposed mining project.

Weld Range. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
Weld Range. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation

Deputy President Sumner of the NNTT came to the conclusion that, “the interests, proposals, opinions or wishes of the [Wajarri Yamatji people] in relation to the use of the Tenement area should be given greater weight than the potential economic benefit or public interest in the Project proceeding. The Weld Range area (including the Tenement area) is of such significance to the [Wajarri Yamatji people] in accordance with their traditions that mining on it should only be permitted with their agreement.”

The NNTT’s decision was reached after an on-country hearing earlier this year which included visits to important places in the Weld Range. The Wajarri Yamatji people and Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) staff gave evidence about caves with rock art, waterholes and old corroboree and ceremonial grounds, all of which remain very significant to the Wajarri Yamatji people.

YMAC, Chief Executive Officer Simon Hawkins said:

This is a fantastic result for the Wajarri Yamatji people. They deserve congratulations for their strength in fighting to protect their cultural heritage.

Over the years the Wajarri Yamatji people have maintained a firm stance on the need to be part of meaningful consultations over developments in the Weld Range. Other developers in the area have recognised this and have been working constructively with the Wajarri Yamatji people for some time. It is great to see the NNTT now recognising the importance of this.

Both Weld Range Metals and the State Government have appealed the decision.

Article source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation News Issue 16, 1 December 2011

Banjima People celebrate recognition after a Federal Court battle

11 March 2014 - Banjima Traditional Owners with Justice Barker. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
11 March 2014 - Banjima Traditional Owners with Justice Barker. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation

On 11 March 2014, the Federal Court recognised the native title rights of the Banjima People at their on-country determination held in Karijini National Park in the Central Pilbara.

The Banjima People first lodged their native title claim in 1998 and have been in litigation with the Western Australian State Government since 2011 after being unable to move forward with a negotiated outcome.

Banjima country extends west towards Tom Price, and east towards the town of Newman. It includes areas around Karijini National Park and the asbestos mining town of Wittenoom. The area is home to many sacred sites including ancient stone engravings and the gorges, including Wittenoom Gorge, have spiritual significance, forming part of the Banjima Peoples’ cultural storylines.

Maitland Parker, Banjima elder, said:

We have fought for this for a long time, so to be recognised as traditional owners is very rewarding. Our elders have taught us all of the things we needed to get our determination. They have taught us our law, language and culture, which we will pass on our young people.

Simon Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer for Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation said it was a momentous occasion for the Banjima people. He said, “After a 15 year wait and the stress of rigorous court proceedings, the Banjima people have achieved formal recognition of their culture and traditions. It is regrettable that the Barnett Government decided to take this matter to trial.”

Justice Barker said it was significant for the court to be sitting in Karijini National Park on Banjima country. He said “For many Banjima People the concluding of the proceeding before the court has been a long time in the coming.” He also said “Regrettably a number of senior members of the Banjima claim group have not lived to see the making of the Banjima determination today but I am sure the memory of these elders who have passed away and their spirit is very much with all Banjima.

Article source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation News Issue 24, 16 June 2014

PKKP Peoples’ determination

2 September 2015 - Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura native title determination, Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
2 September 2015 - Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura native title determination, Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation

On 2 September 2015, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) Peoples celebrated the legal recognition of their land and culture at a Federal Court hearing recognising their native title rights.

Justice Neil McKerracher made the consent determination recognising the PKKP Peoples’ non-exclusive rights to the land. The PKKP native title determination application was filed in 2001 and covers approximately 9,500 km2 of land in the Shire of Ashburton in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The PKKP Peoples, along with representatives from government, mining and pastoral industries attended the Court hearing, held on-Country at House Creek, near the homestead on Mt Stuart Station, about 200 kilometres northwest of Paraburdoo. The determination area is directly north of the Jurruru people’s determination, which was handed down on Tuesday, 1 September 2015.

Mitchell Drage, PKKP Traditional Owner, said:

We’re all one family, and now this journey has finally ended. We’ve always known who we are and where our Country is, but now we’ve been formally recognised by the Court. This gives us an opportunity to move forward as a family.

Simon Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer of Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, said it was a great day for the PKKP peoples.

“Today is very significant for the Traditional Owners of this Country. After 14 long years I am very glad that this could finally be settled with the State Government’s consent, rather than having to go through a stressful and expensive trial.

“I look forward to more consent determinations, so native title groups can move on to the next stage,” he said.

The PKKP native title claim is made up of two separate but related language groups, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama People and the Pinikura People, who together claim rights and interests within the claim area.

Article source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation News Issue 28, 16 October 2015

 ILUA for CSIRO’s ASKAP Telescope

In November 2009 an Indigenous Land Use Agreement was signed for the internationally-significant Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in the Mid West region of Western Australia. The ILUA is an agreement between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) and traditional owners, the Wajarri Yamatji people.

The agreement provides financial and non-financial benefits and ensures the cultural heritage of the Wajarri People is protected. The agreement also included education opportunities, internet access and cadetships and mentoring for Wajarri children.

On finalising the ILUA, Anthony Dann, Wajarri traditional owner said:

The myth that native title holds up development is false; this agreement was completed in record time and the future is looking bright. I look forward to the prospects that education, employment and training opportunities can bring to our community. It’s an exciting time for Wajarri People, the Mid-West and Australia that such a major development will be happening in our country.

 Wajarri people attending the announcement at Parliament House, November 2009. Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation
Wajarri people attending the announcement at Parliament House, November 2009.
Source: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation

The CSIRO recently advised that the antennas of the $188 million Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope are processing 5.2 terabytes of data per second – the equivalent of around 15 per cent of global internet traffic.

CSIRO said it would help scientists answer some of the most fundamental scientific questions about the origins of the universe, such as: how were the first black holes and stars formed; how do galaxies evolve and what is dark energy; what generates giant magnetic fields in space; are we alone in the universe; and was Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity correct?

CSIRO said that turning data into images used to take weeks, but the revolutionary ASKAP technology did it overnight.

“Astronomers are using these observations to look for hydrogen gas, the raw material for making stars, in and around galaxies,” CSIRO said.

Article source: PS News, Ed 535, 24 January 2017.
Further Information: CSIRO Website.