Green light for $1.3 billion Noongar native title settlement

Margaret River, photo by Rob Chandler

A landmark $1.3 billion native title settlement with Western Australia’s Noongar people — the biggest in Australian history — was today given the green light by the Native Title Registrar.

“We are delighted with the outcome of today’s decision,” Jeanice Krakouer, chairperson of the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council said.

“This is a great opportunity for the Noongar people to come together, to control our own destiny and to build a solid future for generations to come.”

The National Native Title Tribunal said in a statement today that it had accepted the six Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA), known as the South West Settlement ILUAs, for registration.

The decision came after a year of deliberations.

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt welcomed the decision.

“The Noongar community has been waiting a long time and have worked incredibly hard to see this agreement progress,” he said.

“This will be one of the most significant native title agreements in the country, and will provide social, economic and cultural outcomes for Noongar people. The benefits of this agreement will flow to Noongar people for generations to come.”

“The settlement is for all Noongar people, and I would urge everyone to get behind the settlement to ensure that the flow of benefits to the Noongar community can commence as soon as possible.”

Mr Wyatt said the decision was a significant step towards the South West Native Title Settlement commencing.

But he said although the agreements had been successfully registered, there was still the possibility that some objectors may seek a judicial review in the Federal Court.

The settlement would come into effect only after all legal proceedings had been exhausted.

The ILUAs have had a rocky path towards registration.

Early last year a Federal Court ruling brought the settlement to a temporary halt after four Noongar people took the Native Title Registrar, the WA government, and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council to court in a bid to stop the agreement going ahead.

Their lawyer could not immediately be contacted for comment today.

In its judgement last year, the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia found that four of six land use agreements negotiated between the Noongar people and the WA government could not be legally registered.

The six agreements made up the landmark $1.3 million package which was to be a full and final settlement of all current and future claims made or to be made by Noongar people under the Native Title Act (1993) on land and waters in south-west WA.

However, changes to the Native Title Act in Federal Parliament last year cleared the way for the deal to proceed.

By Wendy Caccetta

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