Premier Colin Barnett is happy “native title over the south west has been settled.” He has thanked the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) for brokering the outcome. However more than 95 per cent of Noongar/Nyoongar/Nyungah/Bibbullman people did not vote. This does not matter to the Western Australian Government. What matters is that they feel they have “certainty” over the region.
In a media release this morning Premier Barnett thanked the SWALSC for their part in the settlement offer. Premier Barnett claimed that the offer which has been accepted by ‘all six Noongar claim groups at authorisation meetings held over the past three months will provide the Noongar people $1.3 billion in land and other assets and benefits in exchange for the surrender of native title claims over 200,000 square kilometres of land in the southwest.’ Well, this is the first time I have read the use of the word ‘surrender’ by the Government.
“This is the largest Native Title settlement in Australian history and I am very pleased the Noongar groups have voted to accept it,” said Premier Barnett.
Actually it is not the largest native title settlement. Firstly, when it is pitted by population size, thereabouts 40,000 Noongars, it is not a large settlement. Secondly, the quality of the in-kind benefits are questionable. Thirdly, it is not a native title settlement, it was about extinguishing native title and land rights.
But anyway, let us continue with what Premier Barnett stated, “This is an outstanding result for all concerned. The fact that all six Noongar native title groups endorsed the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUAs) – which implement the settlement with the State Government – is a remarkable achievement.”
“I would like to thank SWALSC for the tremendous job they have done in negotiating with the Government on the terms of the offer and guiding the offer through the meetings,” said Premier Barnett.
This poorly constructed and undiplomatic comment by Premier Barnett when in the face of so much resentment at the Government’s deal, SWALSC’s middleperson role and of the way the authorisation meetings have been handled will only fuel more anger and dissent, more divisiveness.
Anyway, more of what Premier Barnett stated. “This is an extraordinary act of self-determination by Aboriginal people and provides them with a real opportunity for independence.”
Independence? The few on behalf of the many “surrender” their land rights and somehow this will be an opportunity for ‘independence’. More like disenfranchisement. On Premier Barnett’s misuse of ‘self-determination’ he must have a skewed understanding of what it may actually mean.
Under the terms of the settlement, a ‘Noongar Boodja Trust’ will be established into which agreed funds will be transferred over a period of 12 years and then end there. Annual instalments of $50 million for 12 years will be deposited. There may also be some Crown land transferred but we will wait and see. But it will be transferred without certainty of perpetuity.
“This is a breakthrough agreement, a historic achievement in reconciliation,” said Premier Barnett.
Six Indigenous Land Use Agreements will be arranged by the State Government in June 2015 and filed with the National Native Title Tribunal.
Premier Barnett stated while there were still legal procedures to be completed, he was optimistic they would be resolved and the full agreement could start to be implemented by mid-2016.
Premier Barnett recognised the huge dissent and low voter turnout. “I acknowledge there are Noongar people who have not accepted the agreement but I want to assure them this settlement will not affect their status as the Traditional Owners of the southwest. It simply means they will exchange their native title claims and certain rights over land and a big investment in their future.”
But the Premier wrapped up the Government’s agenda in their truth that the ‘South West settlement would also deliver greater certainty over land management to business and local government in the southwest.”
Two articles written by Gerry Georgatos and Professor Len Collard, published in The Western Australian newspaper:
A third article that had been submitted to The West Australian newspaper – A deal without certainties