Thursday 16 July 2015

Native Title Round Up

With NAIDOC Week fresh in our minds, VGSO's Land, Planning and Environment Team thought it timely to provide a round up of recent developments in Native Title in Victoria.

1. ALRC recommends significant Native Title Act reforms 

The Australian Law Reform Commission's report on the Native Title Act 1993 includes recommendations that could create significant change in the jurisdiction if the Federal Government passes laws to implement them. The report, 'Connection to Country', was tabled in Parliament on 4 June 2015. Its key recommendations include amending the Act so that claimants would not have to prove that traditional laws and customs have been observed by each and every generation since sovereignty, nor that the society defined by the laws and customs has continued in existence since before sovereignty. The report also recommends that the Act explicitly acknowledge that traditional laws and customs may adapt, evolve or otherwise develop, and that native title rights be capable of including commercial trading rights. The Report contains 30 recommendations overall. The Native Title Act applies nationally.

2. Northern Victorian Claim Ends After 15 Years

The Wadi Wadi, Barapa Barapa, Wamba Wamba native title claim was struck out by the Federal Court on 15 June 2015. It was struck out on the basis that the claim had not progressed for some time, and in the present circumstances the three claimant groups were not in a position to move the claim forward in an efficient way. The Court noted that the strike out was procedural, and did not reflect on whether or not native title rights exist in the area. The groups are still able to file a new native title claim, or pursue rights and recognition under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 or Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. The claim covered areas along the Murray River and extended south of Swan Hill.

3. Gunaikurnai People: New Wilson's Promontory claim registered

The Gunaikurnai People have made a new native title claim over Wilson's Promontory, which has now been entered on the National Register of Native Title Claims. This triggers certain procedural entitlements under the Native Title Act in respect of any projects over Crown land in the claim area that would affect native title (a 'future act'). The claim includes Corner Inlet, extends north inland towards Berry's Creek, and west to Point Smythe. It also includes islands off Wilson's Promontory. The Gunaikurnai People lodged the claim in the Federal Court on 9 December 2014. The Native Title Registrar's delegate was satisfied that the claim met criteria under the Native Title Act, and accepted the claim on the Register of Native Title Claims on 20 April 2015.

4. Victorian alternative to future act regime commences for Dja Dja Warrung

The Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation had the first ever 'Land Use Activity Agreement' commence in late 2014. This triggers procedural entitlements and requirements under Part 4 of the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2014 that particular persons need to follow when carrying out certain activities in the agreement area. The agreement covers a defined area in the vicinity of Bendigo, Central Victoria. Examples of activities range from clearing Crown land, to the grant of mineral tenements, to the sale of Crown land. Agencies involved with activities covered by the agreement in that area should familiarise themselves with the relevant requirements. The agreement is publicly available on the Department of Justice and Regulation website. 

For enquiries regarding Native Title and related matters, please contact:

Managing Principal Solicitor
9947 1419

Principal Solicitor
9947 1422

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