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Western Australia stands at an historic moment in its relationship with its Indigenous
communities. After ten years of divisiveness, uncertainty and dashed hopes over
native title, Western Australia has a once in a lifetime opportunity to end the old
way of doing things. In its place is a New Way Forward, which can bring significant
benefits to all members of the Western Australian community - native title
claimants, government, industry, local government and the taxpaying public.


History was made in September 2003 when the South West          Native title cases can cost many millions of dollars. SWALSC
Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) walked hand in         and the State Government can ill afford to waste money on
hand with members of 218 Indigenous family groups,              extended court battles.
representing the entire Noongar population, to lodge a Single
Noongar Claim with the Federal Court in Perth.                  In addition, recent High Court decisions in Ward and Yorta
                                                                Yorta, along with the recent Federal Court ruling that found
This claim combines the six registered native title claims      public works built before 1996 extinguish native title in the
covering the south-west, with 12 other unregistered claims,     Torres Strait Islands, has made it much more difficult for
into a Single Noongar Claim covering the south-west,            Indigenous groups to prove native title.
extending from Jurien in the north through to Dalwallinu,
Merredin and Hopetoun in the east, down to Albany, all          Deputy Premier Eric Ripper acknowledged in a media
coastal areas and in between.                                   statement, dated 13 December 2002, that Yorta Yorta was a
                                                                “devastating blow” for native title claimants.
This process involved a series of well-attended community
meetings organised by the South West Aboriginal Land and        He said: “I am saddened by the High Court’s decision. It adds
Sea Council (SWALSC) and facilitated by the National Native     insult to injury that the most dispossessed have the lowest
Title Tribunal.                                                 probability of coming up with sufficient evidence to establish
                                                                their native title rights.

                                                                “The WA Government recognises that, despite the High
                                                                Court’s decision, the underlying issue for many Indigenous
                                                                people remains a desire to gain land justice, and to have a
                                                                proper role in the management of land and heritage matters.

                                                                “This Government is committed to pursuing other options to
                                                                meet these aspirations, including joint management of
                                                                national parks, land transfers and heritage management.”

                                                                The Single Noongar Claim has dual benefits: it gives
                                                                Noongars the opportunity to have their native title rights
                                                                recognised, as well as providing the perfect mechanism for
                                                                the State Government to live up to its aim of negotiating
                                                                outcomes for native title claimants.

 The time for relying solely on litigation has long gone. Fighting in                       The Single Noongar Claim has the potential to be a
 court is expensive, time-consuming and frustrating for all parties.                        “win-win” for all parties. A negotiated settlement of the
                                                                                            Claim would provide land justice for Noongar people as well
 A major goal of a Single Noongar Claim is to negotiate                                     as certainty for all other stakeholders such as industry,
 an agreement with government, and other parties, for                                       farmers and local government. It would also be an
 the recognition of the Noongar people’s native title rights                                opportunity for State Government to lead the Nation in
 and interests.                                                                             settling native title claims, and in promoting reconciliation
 The recognition of the Noongar people as the Traditional                                   with Indigenous Australians.
 Owners of the south-west would be formally acknowledged
 through a comprehensive agreement process that will include:                               A NEW APPROACH FOR NOONGAR GOVERNANCE

 • An enhanced heritage protection regime;                                                  SWALSC has identified 218 core family groups that form the
 • Land acquisition programs;                                                               basis of the Noongar Nation. Many of these families have
                                                                                            been involved in native title - some have not. The Single
 • National Park joint management programs;
                                                                                            Noongar Claim is governed by equal representatives from all
 • Economic development opportunities;                                                      families across the region. This new and unique governance
 • Recognition of Traditional Owner roles in Local Government                               structure is bringing people together in a durable and
   processes.                                                                               legitimate regional authority body.

 SWALSC has already made significant progress in reaching
 agreement with a number of different stakeholders.                                         A NEW WAY FORWARD

 These agreements include an Indigenous Land Use                                            The Single Noongar Claim is an innovative and practical
 Agreement (ILUA) with 16 councils in the Central Wheatbelt                                 solution to an old and complex problem. Noongar people
 and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the                                           and many of the major stakeholders are strongly behind the
 Western Australian Local Government Association, covering                                  Single Noongar Claim. Now it is time for all other
 105 of the State’s 144 local government authorities.                                       stakeholders to unite to forge this new way forward on
                                                                                            native title.
 MoUs are also being developed with organisations and
 departments such as ATSIC, CALM, the Department of
 Indigenous Affairs, the Aboriginal Lands Trust, the Office of
 Aboriginal Economic Development and the Indigenous Land

 In the meantime, the Single Noongar Claim is already reaping
 huge benefits. The Single Noongar Claim is having a great
 healing effect amongst Noongar people, and is enhancing the
 relationship with the wider community. The Single Noongar
 Claim is rebuilding the Noongar Nation.

Telephone: 9222 6200   •   1800 617 617   •   Facsimile: 9222 6299
Ground floor, 170 Wellington Street, East Perth, WA 6000    •   PO Box 8432, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849      www.noongar.org.au         ABN 42 485 265 673

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