Traditional owners in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia signed an historic native title agreement in Kununurra on 6 October 2005. The agreement between the Miriuwung and Gajerrong people, the State Government and private sector interests provides the opportunity for Indigenous involvement in the future development of the region that will ultimately offer jobs and training and a better, more self sufficient standard of living for the local Aboriginal community.
Native title and heritage issues for the Miriuwung and Gajerrong people have been resolved through their recognition as the native title holders of the area affected by the agreement and the recognition of their historical and contemporary cultural identity.
The Agreement is a broad package of measures based on a partnership approach between the MG people, the State Government, and private developers for wide community and regional benefit, delivering certainty for all parties as they pursue future developments.
The agreement acknowledges MG are traditional owners of the land covered, with a unique historical and contemporary cultural identity. Negotiations demonstrated that respect for traditional laws and customs plays a critical role in addressing all parties’ interests. The Agreement recognises the injustices of the past (particularly the ongoing impact of the flooding of Lake Argyle) while structurally shifting the MG people’s social, economic and political position for the future through: creation of a resourced corporation; creation of a long term investment trust; provision for community and commercials lands; involvement in joint management of conservation parks; realisation of the potential for future jobs and training, and a better more self sufficient standard of living for the community.
The benefits are shared by all MG people for community purposes, with no payments to indivduals. Negotiating the MG Benefits Package took more than 15 months and, together with the legal framework for the State to acquire land, forms the core of the Agreement. Features of the MG Benefits Package include:
The MG Corporation and the Charitable Trust: Establishment of a Miriuwung Gajerrong Corporation and a Charitable Trust to hold and manage the assets and funds provided for in the Benefits Package.
5 per cent of Serviced Farm Lots: MG Corporation is entitled to 5%of the aggregate area of all new Serviced Farm Lots.
Aboriginal Development Package: The Developer of Ord Stage 2 must negotiate an Aboriginal Development Package with the MG Corporation prior to commencing any development. The Package must include: an Aboriginal Employment Strategy;
reasonable Aboriginal employment targets; opportunities for businesses owned or operated by MG people to provide goods and services for the development; consultation with the MG people about the design of the project to minimise negative social and cultural impacts; procedures to protect Aboriginal heritage in the development process, determined in consultation with the MG people; opportunity for MG people to acquire a further 5% equity in the Project by way of land, shares or joint venture.
Conservation Lands: Joint management of various conservations lands, by working co-operatively with the following:
- Waters and Rivers Commission – to jointly manage reserve land along the eastern and southern shores of Lake Argyle (approximately 127,000ha).
MG people will have their right to access land for traditional and cultural purposes recognised.
CALM – to jointly manage 6 new conservation parks in the region, including:
$1m to set up joint management and develop a Plan of Management;
$1m for infrastructure within the 6 new parks;
$4m over four-years to operate the parks, with a funding review after four years;
Employment training for MG people aiming for 50 % of parks jobs being held by MG people within 10 years;
Right of access for MG cultural purposes;
Freehold to the 6 new conservation parks (approximately 150,000ha), with 200 year peppercorn lease back to CALM; reviews of the joint management agreements and leases every 10 years.
Joint management of any future conservation parks established on traditional country of the MG people;
Joint management of 5 existing parks within the traditional country, subject to CALM obtaining funding.
Progress on Settling all MG Native Title Claims:
The Agreement settles any future compensation claim by the MG People against the State under the MG#1 or MG#4 claims. The State has accepted that the MG people are correct native title holders for the MG#4 claim area and have agreed to enter mediation to settle a consent determination.
Valuation – The Benefits Package consists of money, land and other assets. It is not possible to put a precise valuation on the total
Package The State estimates in excess of $50m, whilst KLC and MG people estimate $25-$30m of tangible assets, whilst recognising
the great potential in other benefits under the Agreement. Much of the financial benefits will be administered by State Government
agencies in consultation and collaboration with the MG people.