Article by Giovanni Torre for the National Indigenous Times
The Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation and Western Australian government have reached a historic settlement for three native title compensation claims in the northern Goldfields region.
Settlement negotiations which took place through a Federal Court mediation process have resulted in the finalisation of the Tjiwarl Palyakuwa (Agreement), an Indigenous Land Use Agreement.
The Tjiwarl Palyakuwa has been registered with the National Native Title Tribunal and will commence, in full, from Monday 22 May.
The Tjiwarl Palyakuwa provides compensation to the Tjiwarl Native Title Holders for the effect of various acts by the State on their native title, including: monetary compensation of $25.5 million; funding for a socio‐economic baseline study; the transfer of ownership of land parcels to Tjiwarl, including the grant of freehold preserving native title rights and a process for any future grants of land; and the creation and expansion of the Tjiwarl Conservation Estate, including the joint management and joint vesting of the Tjiwarl Conservation Estate with Tjiwarl AC contributing to the delivery of the McGowan Government’s Plan for Our Parks initiative.
The Palyakuwa also provides the recognition of exclusive native title rights under s.47C of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) within the Tjiwarl Conservation Estate; the involvement of Tjiwarl in the ongoing management of water on Tjiwarl country, including processes with respect to the assessment of licences under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (WA); Tjiwarl specific future act processes for the grant of certain mining tenements and petroleum titles on Tjiwarl country; support and funding to unlock economic opportunities for Tjiwarl Native Title Holders such as procurement and contracting, sandalwood and carbon initiatives; and support for the recognition or protection of Tjiwarl Native Title Holders’ languages, culture, heritage and history, including with respect to place names, cultural materials and indigenous cultural and intellectual property.
The Western Australian government described the Tjiwarl Palyakuwa (Agreement) as “testimony to the commitment of both the McGowan government and the Tjiwarl people to facilitating positive outcomes for Tjiwarl people, and working together to continue an ongoing relationship and dialogue built on a strong foundation of agreement-making”.
Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Greg Ryan-Gadsden said the Corporation was “pleased to have reached this historic outcome with the State government”.
“The settlement is the result of Tjiwarl filing three compensation claims against the State in 2020. The claims were test cases for historic compensation for impact to culture and heritage within the now determined Tjiwarl area,” he said.
“The settlement provides certainty for Tjiwarl, the State Government and Industry in how tenure, heritage, and environment is managed within the determination area, and we are hopeful it provides a foundation to guide other native title groups to reach similar outcomes.
“The negotiations were at times difficult, emotional and with a degree of high pressure, due in part to strict Federal Court deadlines. The Tjiwarl negotiation team met regularly with many different branches of Government for a period of about 18 months to gradually co-design the final settlement. Along with this, Tjiwarl established a system of comprehensive consultation which included regular Board meetings, family reference group and general meetings.”
Mr Ryan-Gadsden said the result of the process is “an agreement which fundamentally cements Tjiwarl in decision making processes for all matters affecting Tjiwarl Country”.
“Underpinning this is the relationship Tjiwarl has built, and will continue to build, with the State Government. We commend the State for their good faith negotiations. This good faith was demonstrated from the beginning of the negotiations as we had over a dozen Directors and Deputy Directors General, and Government staff on-country for a cultural awareness experience over a period of two days,” he said.
“We look forward to the mammoth task of implementing the Tjiwarl Palyakuwa (ILUA) in partnership with the State Government and are excited by how the negotiated outcomes will positively impact on Tjiwarl native title holders’ lives for many generations to come.”
WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti acknowledged the Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation, and the Tjiwarl Native Title Holders, “for the commitment, dedication and sincerity they brought to these negotiations”.
“The McGowan Government is committed to agreement making in the native title space. I am excited to see this agreement come into effect and I look forward to working further with Tjiwarl AC to implement the commitments we have made for the benefit of Tjiwarl people and their future generations.”
Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson Brett Lewis said the Tjiwarl native title holders “are excited to have reached a settlement with the State and what it will mean for our people and our country both now and into the future”.
“The Agreement addresses historic actions by the State on Tjiwarl country which have impacted on our people, and looks towards how we can build a relationship with the State to make sure our heritage, culture and environment is managed properly moving forward,” he said.
“We are proud that we have negotiated a number of elements of the settlement that are a first for native title groups.
“The Tjiwarl negotiation team and members worked extremely hard throughout the process, with many long and complex negotiation meetings in Perth and on-country. We thank the State for coming to the table in an open and transparent way and look forward to seeing the results of the Agreement start to filter through our communities.”