The Western Australian Government has released a draft Bill
capturing an offer made to the Noongar People worth approximately
$1.3 billion to settle native title claims covering land in the
South West corner of Western Australia.
The Bill is the first of its kind, formally recognising an
indigenous group as the traditional owners of land in
In this Alert, Partner Jonathan Fulcher and Solicitor Borcsa
Vass discuss the background to the Bill, and explain its
significance for future native title claims in Australia.
History of the negotiations
Since 2009, the Western Australian Government (the
Government) has been negotiating with
representatives of six Noongar native title groups, which include
approximately 40,000 indigenous people from the state.
On 5 July 2013, the Government made an offer to the Noongar
representatives to resolve native title claims over 220,000 square
kilometres of land in South West Western Australia.
The draft Noongar (Koorah, Nitja, Boordahwan) (Past,
Present, Future) Recognition Bill 2014 (Bill)
represents the next step in the negotiation process.
The settlement package offered in the Bill includes payments of
$600 million spread over 12 years, the transfer of up to 320,000
hectares of Crown land for indigenous use, and the establishment of
schemes directed towards conservation, heritage, housing,
employment and indigenous culture.
The Noongar People have six months to decide whether they will
accept the offer.
Significance of the Bill
The package offered to the Noongar People represents the largest
native title settlement offer in Australian history. It covers an
area of land that is almost one tenth of the area of Western
The proposed settlement offer consolidates what were originally
seven separate native title claims. This in itself is a novel
approach to native title settlements in Australia.
The significance of the offer as a Bill demonstrates an
intention by the Government to be bound by its obligations. It is a
significant gesture by the Government.
The size of the settlement in the case of the Noongar People is
comparable to some of the settlements for indigenous land use in
Canada. Given that the Bill is the first of its kind in Australia,
it is yet to be seen whether it will create a trend for other
governments. It may be that the sheer size of the native title area
and the various elements of the settlement offer have lent
themselves to this approach.
In any event, the Noongar Bill opens the door for governments
across Australia to recognise native title claims through
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