WA Native Title Determination to Include Pastoral Leases

Following extensive negotiations, the Federal Court has officially recognised the West Australian Karajarri people's native title rights - over an area that includes pastoral leases.

Last week at Bidyadanga, 200km south of Broome, Justice Tony North handed consent determination over a 5,647 sq km area of pastoral leases and reserves in the Kimberley. The determination finalises the remainder of the Karajarri people's native title claim over approximately 30,400 sq km of land and waters, decided in February 2002.

The consent determination is the first the Federal Court has made in Western Australia over an area that includes non-indigenous pastoral leases since the High Court handed down its decision in Western Australia v Ward. While pastoral leases do not give exclusive possession to the pastoral leaseholder, the Court found in that case, the rights of pastoralists to carry on their business will prevail over any native title rights.

The Karajarri people received official recognition of non-exclusive rights to use and enjoy the land and waters in areas of pastoral lease, reserve and former reserve land. This covers such activities as entering and remaining on the land and waters, camping, hunting and taking natural resources.

National Native Title Tribunal Deputy President, Mr Fred Chaney, who mediated between the parties, congratulated them for choosing to work together to reach an agreement, but warned there were still many challenges ahead for the Karajarri people.

"The first step for native title claimant groups is to have their native title rights recognised, preferably through agreement. After this the agreement must be implemented and this is a challenge for native title holders across Australia.

Several more claims in the region are reaching completion.

14 September, 2004

Findlaw

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