|Native Title Determinations||7|
|Native Title does not exist in the determination area||3|
|Native Title exists in parts of the determination area||4|
|Native title exists in the entire determination area||0|
|Active native title determination applications||4|
|Indigenous Land Use Agreements||57|
|Body Corporate Agreements||9|
Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC
The Victorian government released a native title policy in 2000 which encompassed a whole of government approach to the resolution of native title matters and, in 2001, first published their “Guidelines for Native Title Proof”. However, following the High Court Yorta Yorta decision, it appeared that few, if any, groups in Victoria would be in a position to achieve a positive determination of native title.
As a consequence, the government developed an alternative settlement process, through the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group established in 2006. The Group developed a framework for settling claims and a result of the process was the establishment of the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (TOS Act), whereby native title claims could be settled on the basis of a non-native title outcome with a negotiated settlement. Settlements under this regime require the withdrawal of any native title claim. Two settlements have been finalised under this regime – the Gunai/Kurnai in 2010 and the Dja Dja Wurrung in 2013. The Gunaikurnai settlement was a composite settlement existing of the recognition of the continued existence of native title in some parts of the claim area and an agreement reached under the TOS Act.
Despite lowered expectations following the Yorta Yorta decision, there have been four determinations that native title exists in parts of the determination area.
The Gunditjmara People’s native title determinations;
The Federal Court of Australia made two consent determinations on 30 March 2007 recognising the Gunditjmara People’s non-exclusive native title rights and interests over the majority of almost 140,000 hectares of vacant Crown land, national parks, reserves, rivers, creeks and sea north-west of Warrnambool in Victoria’s western district.
This outcome marked Australia’s 100th registered native title determination. It was only the second time the Federal Court had recognised native title through a consent determination in Victoria, a state where two centuries of non-indigenous land holdings have made native title difficult to achieve.
Lake Condah – now grass and stone – was once the site of one of Australia’s earliest and largest aquaculture ventures operated by the ancestors of the Gunditjmara People – a large settled Aboriginal community.
The Gunditjmara People were able to provide evidence that they were descended from this community and had maintained an ongoing connection to their country.
Over 400 individuals and groups with interests in the claimed area became parties to the claim and participated in negotiations. The majority of these two claims are now finalised through these determinations.
During mediation the State of Victoria reached an indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) with the Gunditjmara People that establishes how they will exercise their rights and interests in the determination area.
In addition, the State Government and the Gunditjmara reached agreements that involve:
• cooperative management of Mt Eccles National Park and the establishment of a joint body, the Budj Bim Council, to oversee daily management
• transferring freehold title of the Lake Condah Reserve to the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
“We have never been in any doubt about our ownership of this beautiful place.”
— Gunditjmara representative, Johnnie Lovett