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WA Govt to grant freehold title outside native title definition

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 2 April 2003


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 Dam.

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 the courts.

"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."


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