The Western Australian Government will grant freehold title over
50,000 hectares of Crown land in the East Kimberley if the traditional
Aboriginal owners agree to settle their native title claim.
The Miriuwong-Gajerrong first lodged a claim for 6,000 square
kilometres of northern Western Australia and the Northern Territory
nine years ago.It was seen as a test case for native title over
pastoral land and the claim see-sawed through the Federal and High
Courts without resolution.
Labor Member for Kimberley Carol Martin says the offer of land
outside the strict definition of native title is a gesture of goodwill.
"We've got a lot, as Kimberley people, to be proud of, that
we've got a government that wants a resolution where native title
is concerned," Ms Martin said.
The traditional owners have long claimed the land parcel was
promised them 30 years ago when their sacred sites in the East
Kimberley were flooded to make way for the creation of the Argyle
Ms Martin says she has been involved in the negotiations since
February last year and she is convinced the Government is making
a show of goodwill towards the Miriuwong-Gajerrong people.
She says offering the land on a freehold basis will allow the
claimants to move away from reserves over which they have no control
and into a community of their own.
"These people have fought very long and when you look at
a simple point of justice, I think in some cases the determinations
have been bereft of goodwill and I'm just so pleased that this
Government is actually showing the goodwill that they've spoken
about," she said.
She says it is part of the Government's policy to determine native
title claims by mutual consent instead of trawling matters through
"People need to live somewhere and you can't keep having
people living on reserves and you know that sort of thing, it's
soul destroying," she said.
"I mean they don't have any control over it.
"Whereas if this goes over freehold then it actually puts
a bit of value into the relationship and the fact that there is
recognition of ownership."