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Comprehensive Settlements

Last edited: May 31, 2024

Comprehensive settlement agreements are a modern method of negotiating with the state on matters of land ownership, access and use as well as other rights such as rights to cultural activities.

We use the term ‘comprehensive’ to refer to agreements between Indigenous peoples and governments (state, territory or federal) that are broad in subject matter and substantive in benefit. They should operate over a long or indefinite timescale, not inflexibly, but as a baseline. They are restitutive, but also future-focused.

AIATSIS

Comprehensive settlements can include not only a transfer of land as in Native Title decisions, but also compensation packages, rights to cultural activities, land management agreegments and more. The definition of what makes a settlement ‘comprehensive’  is vague, as they can include native title or non-native title outcomes, and a wide array of agreements. This ambiguity allows for a broader potential of what could be included in these negotiations. Comprehensive settlements can build off of Native Title claims where the process can be costly, time inefficient and have limited results, leading to the claim be negotiated with the state to include further outcomes and avoid further unnecessary costs. In other cases, the settlements can be negotiated entirely out-of-court, through state legislation for example in Victoria Recognition and Settlement Agreements (RSAs) have been negotiated under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) (TOSA), see more here. As a result, comprehensive settlements are better placed to achieve the economic, cultural, political and social autonomy for First Nations peoples which was aimed for, but has failed, under Native Title.

The following are examples of comprehensive settlements , which can include not only a transfer of land as in Native Title decisions, but also compensation packages, rights to cultural activities, land management agreements etc.

Dja Dja Wurrung Recognition & Settlement Agreement

  • After a negotiation period of 18 months, in 2013 the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DJAARA) representing the Dja Dja Wurrung Peoples entered into an RSA, receiving formal recognition as the Traditional Owners of part of Central Victoria by the state and settling the four native title claims which dated back to 1998.
  • Six parks and reserves and two properties of cultural significance were returned for joint management including a Land Use Activity Agreement (LUAA) which gives the right to hunt, fish and gather resources.
  • Became the first comprehensive RSA under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic). Read more here

Noongar Settlement / South West Native Title Settlement

  • Australia’s biggest and most extensive Indigenous Land agreement in its history.
  • Originally was 78 claims in 1997, became 6 composite claims, until finally the Single Noongar claim (SNC) to cover the 6 composite claims in 2003.
  • In 2006, Justice Wilcox found the Noongar people did have Native Title rights, as they held and continued to have a connection to ancestral culture and to the land, however this was overturned by the court in 2008.
  • The Noongar Recognition Act of 2016, was created to formally and in parliament recognise the continued connection to the land of the Noongar people by the WA government. The act recognised the Noongar people as the traditional owners who hold cultural responsibilities and rights to Noongar Boodja.
  • The settlement package included $1.3 billion in land and other assets in resources, governance, finances and cultural heritage, $50million per annum over 12 years of funding and 320,000 hectares to be transferred.

Yamatji Nation Indigenous Land Use Agreement

  • Four group Native Title claims in the area of Geraldton become one single claim called the Yamatji Nation Claim, which authorised the Yamatji Nation Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) in December 2019, the federal court concluded the Yamatji Nation holds non-exclusive Native Title rights and interests in parts of the land in the agreed area in 2020.
  • The settlement included $442 million including cash, assets and implementation costs, an economic development package, heritage agreements, the Yamatji Land Estate which transfers 138,000 hectares of crown land, the conservation estate with joint-management  with the DBCA  for 470,000 hectares of land, a government partnership committee, and several Indigenous corporations to take governance over the implementation and management of the agreement.
  • This was the first simultaneous settlement of Land Use Agreement and Native Title claim.

Taungurung Recognition & Settlement Agreement

  • The Taungurung Recognition and Settlement Agreement (RSA) covers approximately 11% of Victoria and commenced in 2020, after negotiations took place between the Victorian Government, The Taungurung Land and Waters Council Aboriginal Corporation (TLaWC) and the Taungurung Traditional Owner group under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010  (Vic) (TOS act).
  • The settlement led to the recognition of the Taungurung people as the Traditional Owners of the land, $34 million, employment opportunities, joint management of parks and reserves, a natural resource agreement and Indigenous Land Use Agreement along with many other agreements.
  • Matthew Burns a Taungurung Man and the chief executive of TLaWC told the National Indigenous Times that the Taungurung’s Recognition and Settlement Agreement had its restrictions, the rights given over country only included land owned by the Crown, TLaWC and Taungururn people in the area, and even though they were given freehold title, new zoning has prohibited camping on the area, contradicting the rights they gained in the Natural Resource Agreement.
  • Was the first Native Title settlement to be made under the TOS act without the federal courts involvement.

Eastern Kuku Yalanji

  • The Eastern Kuku Yalanji People received Native Title recognition in 2007, however since then have been campaigning for greater control, autonomy and involvement over the land. 
  • The Traditional Owner Group Negotiation Committee (TONC) and five Elders groups was created on behalf of the Yalanji, Jalunji and Nyungkul clans to negotiate with the Queensland State Government, to gain more than just recognition.
  • In 2021, the Queensland Government signed a deal in 2021, returning four national parks surmounting to over 160,000 hectares including the world renowned Daintree rainforest and a small portion of freehold land to the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation on behalf of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji People.  
  • An Indigenous Land Use Agreement was signed between the Queensland Government and the Natitve Title groups Including an Indigenous Management Agreement (IMU) between the multiple parties involved; Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, Eastern Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owners, Wet Tropics Management Authority and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services. The groups will jointly manage the land with the Queensland government, meaning the Eastern KuKu Yalanji people can better manage their lands, preserve their culture and lead the tourism in the area. Read more here…
  • Demonstrates the limitations of native title in terms of recognising sovereignty as the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Peoples sought further rights and involvements on their land beyond just the recognition which was given.

Further Reading

 

Resources
Factsheet
Land Back Read
Report
ANTAR Impact Report Read
Submission
Path to Treaty Bill Qld Read
Factsheet
The Woodward Royal Commission Read
More
Native Title & Land Rights
Native Title & Land Rights About native title Read More
Native Title & Land Rights Native title vs land rights Read More
Native Title & Land Rights Land Back Read More
Native Title & Land Rights The Timber Creek compensation case Read More