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Aboriginals seal historic title deal
Ngaanyatjarra's Debra Smythe, Fred Ward and Lalla West celebrate the agreement.
Australia's biggest native title agreement covering an area twice the size of Ireland and another agreement, involving the site of a historic
showdown between Aboriginals and an oil company, have been endorsed by the West-Australian State Government.
Deputy Premier Eric Ripper said it was a historic day for Western-Australia and the agreements over Ngaanyatjarra lands an Noonkanbah were a great improvement
for relations between the State's indigenous and non-indigenous people.
He said the onerous native title process had helped the Aboriginals achieve recognition of what they knew to be true:
"The land belongs to them and they belong to the land."
National Native Title Tribunal deputy president Fred Chaney said the Federal Court was expected to ratify the agreements next year.
He said if people wished to do things on Aboriginal
land, they would have to negotiate with the traditional owners about the protection of sites and compensation.
Mr Chaney said registered native title claimants already had the right to negotiate; the agreement just made it permanent.
"There's no real shift in the obligations that are put on people
by the determination," he said. "Where there are existing mining tenements, they will all be shown in the determination as interests which continue."
The Ngaanyatjarra lands native title claim covered almost 188,000sq km in the central desert bordering South Australia, while the Yungngora people's claim covered the 1811sq km Noonkanbah
pastoral lease in the West Kimberley, North Western-Australia.
Mr Ripper said the Ngaanyatjarra agreement was negotiated in a record eight months, and illustratred the success of the Government's "agreement not argument" policy.
Ngaanyatjarra Council native title manager Bill Lawrie said achieving the outcome through agreement rather than litigation had saved millions of dollars of taxpayers' money and years of precious time.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy also welcomed the deal.
AAP © 2004 West Australian Newspapers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Acknowledgements: Tracey Joynson. Picture courtesy of Rod Taylor.
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