Central Desert and Kimberley groups reach native title agreements

23 December 2004

The Yungngora people and the peoples of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia have come a step closer to achieving native title recognition, with the State Government's announcement of support for their native title agreements.

Both groups have been seeking legal recognition of their native title rights and interests for some time, the Noonkanbah application since being lodged in 1998 and the Central Desert application since 1995.

The Ngaanyatjarra Lands Native Title Claim covers 187,641 square kilometres in the Central Desert and covers the area of six existing Central Desert applications: Baker Lake, Gibson Desert, Irrunytju-Papulankutja, Tingarri Tjina, Tjirrkarli Kanpa, Warburton-Mantamaru, in addition to a previously unclaimed area north of the Spinifex determined area. The original six claims were over an area which is part of a single cultural bloc united by traditional law and custom. The area has a unified administration under the Ngaanyatjarra Council and the single claim complements the unified administrative arrangements.

The parties to this claim are the claimants - represented by Ngaanyatjarra Council, the State and Commonwealth Governments, Telstra, Airservices Australia, WMC Resources, Shire of Laverton, Newmont Gold Exploration Pty Ltd and Oremont Ltd.

The Yungngora people's claim, represented by the Hon. Ernie Bridge and solicitors Dwyer Durack, covers the Noonkanbah pastoral lease, an area of 1811 square kilometres located west of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region. In addition to the State Government the parties to the claim include the claimants, the Shire of Derby West Kimberley, the Kimberley Land Council and Diamond Rose NL.

Tribunal Deputy President, the Hon. Fred Chaney, who has mediated between the parties to the claims, congratulated all groups for reaching agreed outcomes.

'It is pleasing to see the agreement over the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Native Title claim follow on from the consent determination of three other adjoining desert claims - the Spinifex claim that the Court Government settled by agreement in 2000, the Kiwirrkurra claim settled by agreement by the Gallop Government in 2001 and the Martu claim also settled by the Gallop Government in 2002,' he said.

'The previous Court Government had also announced its intention to recognise the native title rights of the Yungngora people and it is good to see the current government settling the matter by agreement.

'Given the conflict between government, miners and Aboriginals over Noonkanbah in the 1970's this agreement points up how Western Australia has progressed in reconciling Aboriginal and broader community interests.'

The Yungngora people are seeking recognition of their exclusive native title rights and interests over the Noonkanbah Pastoral Lease which was purchased for them in 1976, and includes the rights to possess the land and to use the waters for domestic and non-commercial communal purposes.

They are seeking non-exclusive rights over a stock route and an aerodrome. Roads and any other valid public works will be excluded from the determination.

The peoples of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands are to obtain recognition of a range of exclusive and non-exclusive rights over their claimed area according to what other tenures exist over the land.

The next step will be the ratification of the agreements in the Federal Court.

'The Commonwealth Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, has recently stated his preference for negotiated native title outcomes and this increasingly appears to be the approach parties are preferring to take to resolve native title claims across Australia,' Mr Chaney said.

'Agreed determinations which avoid the expense and division of a trial process and are tailored to meet the needs of all parties with an interest in the land should provide for better future relationships and workable outcomes.'

For further information see the map of the determination area and the background information.

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