A new Bill introduced in Parliament today recognises indigenous interests in two of the State’s largest conservation areas, the Ruddall River National Park and the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve (the Parks).
The Parks are located in the Central Desert region of Western Australia and cover about 31,265 square kilometres.
Deputy Premier Eric Ripper said the Indigenous Conservation Title Bill (ICT), if passed, would fulfil the State Government’s long-standing commitment to the Martu and Gibson Desert people to recognise their traditional ownership of the Parks.
“The current tenure of the Parks extinguishes the traditional owners’ native title rights and interests,” Mr Ripper said.
“Once extinguished, native title cannot normally be revived, however this unique form of freehold title provides an alternative path to recognition.
“It will allow for the cancellation of the existing Class A status attached to the Parks, so the land can be transferred to the traditional owners as conditional freehold.
“This means the Martu and Gibson Desert people will be able to maintain their social, economic and religious practices, as they have always done.
“However, conditions attached to the freehold mean these practices must be carried out in a way that protects the conservation values of the Parks. The conditions also protect public access rights, and prevent the land from being sold or mortgaged.
“Special protections that applied to the Parks by virtue of their Class A status will also be maintained.”
The ICT forms part of a larger package that includes an agreement for leaseback to the State Government and joint management between the Department of Conservation and the Environment and the traditional owners.
The package is intended to offset the State Government’s compensation liability for the extinguishment of native title within the Park boundaries.
Deputy Premier's office - 9222 8788