Traditional owners have celebrated a landmark economic package along with native title recognition in Western Australia’s Mid West region.
An on-country Federal Court hearing was held in Geraldton on Friday for the Yamatji Nation Claim’s native title determination, while an indigenous land use agreement was also signed with the state government following negotiations that began in 2017.
The $442 million package includes housing assets for lease or sale or development, investment for business and tourism development, access to water reserves and employment opportunities.
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Simon Hawkins said it would empower traditional owners and “assist in closing the gap”.
“This agreement will change the relationship between traditional owners and government, and we believe it can serve as a blueprint for future agreement making,” he said.
The Yamatji Nation will have non-exclusive possession rights over parts of the former Barnong, Menai Hills and Kadji Kadji pastoral leases, land parcels near the Wanda Nature Reserve, Lucky Bay, and the Aboriginal Lands Trust areas in Carnamah, Kadathini and Eneabba.
A conservation estate will also be created.
Justice Debra Mortimer said every determination that native title exists was important.
“The recognition given by a determination of native title, for those who have long been denied any recognition by Australian law of their deep and abiding connection to their country, is a step in the struggle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to regain what was taken away from them,” she said in her judgment.
“This particular determination might be said to have special significance because of the widespread physical dispossession of the people of the Yamatji Nation from their lands (and) because of the complexity and challenges of the negotiations.”
Justice Mortimer also acknowledged the unity shown by all groups within the Yamatji Nation.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said the Yamatji and Noongar people were at the forefront of treaty negotiations in Australia and would be long remembered as pioneers.
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