Richard Court

Richard Court

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    State reaches native title agreement with Spinifex people

    16/10/2000 2:30 PM
     
    16/10/00

    The State Government and a group of traditional Aboriginal owners have reached agreement on a consent native title determination covering an area of 50,000sq.km in the Great Victoria Desert region.

    Premier Richard Court said the final details for the consent determination were resolved after meetings last week between the State Government and Aboriginal elders of the Spinifex people in the remote Aboriginal community of Tjuntjuntjara, in the corner of the Great Victoria Desert Nature Reserve.

    The native title determination comes more than four years after the Spinifex people lodged their original claim and two years after they entered into a historic framework agreement with the Government.

    Mr Court said the agreed native title determination meant the claim would not be subject to a Federal Court trial.

    “The agreement is a victory for commonsense and reflects the fact that the Government has no doubt that these people are the traditional owners for the area,” he said.

    The Premier said under the determination the Spinifex people would have:
    • a right to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land, including the right to live on the land;
    • a right to make decisions about the use and enjoyment of the land;
    • a right to hunt and gather (including ochre), and to take water, for the purposes of satisfying their personal, domestic, social, cultural, religious, spiritual or non-commercial communal needs, including the observance of traditional laws and customs;
    • a right to maintain and protect sites of significance to the common law holders under their traditional laws and customs; and -
    • a right as against any other Aboriginal group or individual to be acknowledged as the traditional Aboriginal owners.

    Mr Court said that as part of the determination, the Spinifex people had acknowledged that these rights were subject to all State and Commonwealth laws and non-exclusive where the State had already granted title to land.

    “The State retains its ownership of minerals, petroleum and water,” the Premier said.

    “However, the Spinifex people will have the right to negotiate over mineral development.

    “The strength of the Spinifex claim was never in doubt, but the big problem was to agree how native title would fit within land and mineral title administration.

    I am pleased that the State’s position has been accepted by the Spinifex claimants.”

    The Premier said this was in stark contrast to the attitude of bodies such as the Kimberley and Goldfields Land Councils, which continued to pursue ideological claims over critical State resources such as minerals and water.

    Notwithstanding the Spinifex agreement, the need for a State-based process for dealing with native title claims on pastoral lease land remained.

    “Fortunately the Spinifex negotiations related only to vacant Crown land and reserve land - no pastoral leases were involved,” Mr Court said.

    The State Government and the Spinifex people will now apply to the Federal Court to register the determination.

    Media contact: Casey Cahill 9222 9475