A Federal Government decision to recognise native title in Australia’s modern territorial seas has been welcomed by Deputy Premier Eric Ripper.
Mr Ripper said the State Government had long supported the High Court’s ruling, that non-exclusive possession native title rights and interests could extend seaward to the 12 nautical mile limit.
“Unfortunately, this view did not find support with the Howard Government and this has severely impaired the State Government’s capacity to negotiate native title claims that include modern territorial seas,” he said.
“Today’s decision is a very positive step for Western Australia.
“Negotiations over three native title claims in the Kimberley region that stalled over this issue can now be progressed in a timely manner.
“It gives a clear indication that the Rudd Government is committed to recognising native title where possible and that it is prepared to remove some of the stumbling blocks that have created bottlenecks in the system.”
Native title law in relation to this matter was settled in 2001 with the handing down of the Croker Island High Court decision. That decision confirmed native title existed in all areas of the sea and sea-bed claimed, including small areas in the territorial seas.
The native title rights were found to be non-exclusive and were limited to non-commercial activities such as fishing for subsistence or cultural purposes, access to areas of sea, protecting places of cultural and spiritual knowledge, and safeguarding that knowledge.
The native title did not include a right to trade in resources of the sea.
Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with responsibility for native title will all meet in Perth tomorrow.
Deputy Premier's office - 9222 8788