The Yamatji Nation Indigenous Land Use Agreement (Yamatji Nation Agreement), which covers more than 48,000 square kilometres of land in the Mid-West, was signed on 24 February 2020, following a Federal Court hearing on 7 February recognising the native title rights and interests of the Yamatji Nation over significant parcels of land.
The Agreement provides an enduring benefits package to ensure self-determination and long-term economic independence for the people of the Yamatji Nation and comprises the following components: cash, economic development opportunities, cultural heritage protection measures, recognition of native title, housing, governance, land, and conservation estate as well as access to water.
Acknowledging the importance of land to the people of the Yamatji Nation, the benefits package includes the creation of the Yamatji Land Estate from a pool of approximately 150,000 hectares of Crown land to be transferred in freehold, conditional freehold and managed reserve, and the creation of the Yamatji Conservation Estate comprising approximately 690,000 hectares, including new and existing Conservation Park and National Park areas and some jointly managed areas.
The package also includes funding for business development, the transfer of commercial land, joint ventures, tourism opportunities and access to housing properties for sale, leasing or development.
Additionally, there are revenue streams from mining rental and leasing or sale of land in the Oakajee Industrial Estate, as well as a Strategic Aboriginal Water Reserve for use or trade.
For further information on the status of the Agreement or other aspects outside of the land and heritage components, please email the Department of the Premier and Cabinet YamatjiNationAgreement@dpc.wa.gov.au.
Native Title and recognition
Since November 2017, the State Government and native title parties have been negotiating terms for an alternative settlement of native title involving all of the Yamatji Nation, Hutt River, Southern Yamatji and Widi Mob native title claims and a portion of the Mullewa Wadjari native title claim.
In February 2020, the State Government and native title parties executed the Yamatji Nation Agreement and the Federal Court made a determination of native title in respect of the five claims.
With the conclusive registration of the Yamatji Nation Agreement, native title has been recognised and then surrendered over the majority of the Yamatji Nation Agreement Area. This means that non-exclusive native title rights and interests are recognised over culturally significant parcels of land in the Agreement area, which are termed the Native Title Areas. The Native Title Areas include portions of the former Barnong, Menai Hills and Kadji Kadji pastoral leases and parcels of land near the Wandana Nature Reserve, as well as Lucky Bay and two Aboriginal Lands Trust properties.
The Preamble to the Yamatji Nation Agreement includes an acknowledgement of the Yamatji Nation people’s connection to the land and recognises the traditional laws and customs that guide their cultural responsibility to the land. The Agreement recognises the diversity of all the identity groups that make up the Yamatji Nation and acknowledges that this land was, and always will be, Yamatji country.
The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage’s Agreements team, within the Land Use Management Division, is tasked with implementing the land components under the Yamatji Nation Agreement.
The Yamatji Nation Agreement:
- will establish the Yamatji Land Estate, which will consist of land selected by the people of the Yamatji Nation from a pool of approximately 150,000 hectares of Crown land, including eight Aboriginal Lands Trust properties (eligible land)
- places an obligation on the State to quarantine all Eligible Land from dealings until 2025
- places an obligation on the State to make payments if and when there is a sale of Encroached Land within the Agreement Area
- will establish the Yamatji Conservation Estate, which will involve creating new Conservation Park and National Park areas and extending the boundaries of some existing conservation areas.
Yamatji Land Estate
The Yamatji Land Estate will be held by the Yamatji landholding bodies established under the Agreement and is intended to provide significant opportunities for the people of the Yamatji Nation to achieve sustainable economic, social and cultural outcomes.
Continued access to land and waters for social, cultural and economic purposes is of high importance to the Yamatji Nation. Much of the land included in the Yamatji Nation Agreement was chosen by the Yamatji people because of its cultural significance, while other land parcels have been selected because of economic development potential.
The Yamatji Land Estate will comprise the following land, if selected by the Yamatji Nation:
- up to 134,440 hectares (1344 square kilometres) of land as reserve and
- up to 14,650 hectares (146.5 square kilometres) of land as freehold or conditional freehold.
Approximately 3000 hectares (30 square kilometres) have been identified in the Agreement as a priority to transfer once the Yamatji landholding bodies are ready.