More than 300 Yamaji people met recently at Rovers Football Ground and prepared to authorise a native title settlement covering 48,000sqkm of Geraldton and Mid West land, for a broad range of State Government benefits.
The Midwest Times understands more than 500 people voted to accept the Yamatji Nation Southern Regional Agreement at a meeting the next day at Sun City Christian Centre. WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt attended, saying community support for the agreement was unprecedented.
“I am not surprised, then, that there were so few dissenting voices,” he said.
“With such support, it is anticipated that conclusive registration will be achieved in a timely manner.
“That’s when the benefits will begin to flow.”
Mr Wyatt said the benefits package focused heavily on economic development and economic independence for the Yamaji claimants.
“They will be well placed to achieve economic independence in the coming years,” he said.
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Simon Hawkins said details of the agreement were under court-ordered mediation and remained confidential until it was executed and registered with the Native Title Tribunal. A spokesman for the minister said this was expected to happen in February.
Traditional Owner Negotiation Team chairman Fred Taylor said he was pleased with the large turnout at the meetings.
“This has been over 25 years in the making and is a historic moment for our people,” Mr Taylor said.
“We’ve lost many elders and a fellow TONT member along this journey, but they really got us to this place where we as a community got to make a decision about our future.
“We are really looking forward to the native title determination that will recognise us as native title holders and a settlement package that will provide real opportunities and let us look after our country.”
Once the agreement is executed, it is expected to be proclaimed at an on-country determination hearing of the High Court on the same day.
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