The Noongar People’s South West Native Title Settlement is one step closer to being fulfilled thanks to a decision handed down today from the Full Bench of the Federal Court.
The Full Bench rejected applications for judicial review of the settlement as well as awarding costs against the breakaway group of Noongar applicants trying to delay the settlement.
The billion-dollar settlement, brought by the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) on behalf of Noongar Traditional Owners, covers a vast area of Western Australia’s South West and was originally authorised in 2015.
In 2018, the Registrar of the Native Title Tribunal registered the six extensively negotiated Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs).
The breakaway Noongar group in disagreement with the settlement then lodged applications for judicial review of the Registrar’s decision.
The group argued the Registrar incorrectly authorised and registered the ILUAs, causing the decision to fall to the Full Bench of the Federal Court.
SWALSC has welcomed the Court’s decision to uphold the ILUAs’ registration and will move forward to implement the settlement in the coming year.
“I’m pleased that today we have been able to honour and respect the wishes of our Elders who fought so long and hard for this negotiated settlement of our claims for Native Title,” said SWALSC CEO, Wayne Nannup.
Mr Nannup said he is looking forward to working with all Noongar People to implement the settlement in future.
SWALSC Chair, Jeanice Krakouer, also expressed her satisfaction with the decision.
“I am excited that today we move one step closer to controlling our own destiny and being able to bring our community together in healing for the benefit of future generations of our Noongar People,” Ms Krakouer said.
WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ben Wyatt, also backed the Court’s decision and called on lawyers to “stop the ongoing expensive legal indulgence” and let the Settlement proceed.
“The Noongar community have waited a long time and have worked incredibly hard to see this landmark Settlement begin,” Minister Wyatt said.
“The Settlement will provide significant long-term opportunities for the Noongar People to achieve long-term, self-determining social, economic and cultural outcomes.”
The Minister urged everyone to get behind the Settlement so Noongar Traditional Owners can receive its benefits as soon as possible.
Those opposed to the Full Bench’s decision may now seek leave to appeal to the High Court. The High Court can then decide whether to hear the case or not.
By Hannah Cross