Historic Turning Point for Noongar People in progress towards Self-Determination

Historic Turning Point for Noongar People in progress towards Self-Determination

Noongar Plaque

The Noongar People of Western Australia are now one step closer to reaching a comprehensive settlement with the government of Western Australia of their native title claims. The settlement involves a massive area that covers the south-west of the state from Jurien Bay, to Merredin, to Ravensthorpe and along the coast to Albany, Bunbury and Perth.

Saturday (28/3/15) was a historic turning point for Noongar people because the sixth (and final) Noongar community authorization meeting was held in relation to the WA governments offer of a settlement package. All six meetings authorized proceeding with the Government offer.

It has been a long road since the 2006 Willcox decision in favourite of Noongar native title. It has been an even longer journey since those initial meetings that decided on a single unified Noongar claim; an idea without precedent. It is an even longer road since 1829.

Many people have worked on this over the years, all that work must be acknowledged, because it laid the foundation for today and the future.

The narrative and discourse of dispossession is now shifting; as this substantially changes the ground rules for the first time since the commencement of the colonial enterprise in 1829. It is the beginning of a new phase of engagement.

When enacted by the WA Parliament, the Noongar Recognition Bill would be the most comprehensive statutory settlement of native title claims in the state.

The relevant aspect of the Noongar Settlement are the legal corporations that will be created to represent the interests of the Noongar People. The basic governance structure for the entire area will comprise six Noongar Regional Corporations supported by a Central Services Corporation (responsible to provide services and advice to the Corporations) and the Noongar Corporations Committee (responsible to coordinate activities of the Corporations).

The outcome of this process is that the Noongar People, in effect, will obtain a corporate identity which is sanctioned by law.

The establishment of corporate entities for the Noongar people may, potentially, provide a future basis for those Corporations to become involved in other areas of government and administration – read self-determination – at a level not previously seen in Western Australia or Australia.

This is the biggest deal in native title in Australia and it will probably take another thirty years to see how it unfold.

Campaigns for sovereignty and land rights remain, and rightly so. Today, is a day to celebrate.

Stephen Hall
Stephen Hall
Lives in Perth, Western Australia.

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