What can you expect when engaging with the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (known as DJAARA), most likely for an Advisory or Negotiation (Class B) process?
This page was drafted in close consultation with DJAARA. Of course, nothing stated here binds or limits the ways that DJAARA might respond to a notification.
Dja Dja Wurrung aspirations
DJAARA will always seek opportunities to improve the wellbeing of the Dja Dja Wurrung people through Land Use Activity Agreement (LUAA) notifications.
The LUAA is part of a broader Recognition and Settlement Agreement (RSA) aimed at respecting the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners. This goal includes acknowledging their unique culture and knowledge of traditional land, and addressing the consequences of government policy and practice that led to dispossession and disadvantage.
Outcomes from the RSA include:
- recognition of the Dja Dja Wurrung as traditional owners
- promoting respect for Dja Dja Wurrung culture
- protection of cultural heritage
- employment and enterprise opportunities
- land management outcomes.
The Dhelkunya Dja Country Plan(opens in a new window) sets out the aspirations of the Dja Dja Wurrung for the short, medium and long term and informs DDWCAC’s responses to LUAA notification. The plan looks ahead to the next 20 years, with topics related to the personal, cultural and economic wellbeing of the Dja Dja Wurrung and their responsibilities to care for country.
Examples of LUAA outcomes
Outcomes from LUAA notifications may include, for example:
- installing signs at strategic locations that recognise the Dja Dja Wurrung as traditional owners
- acknowledging Dja Dja Wurrung support for important community facilities
- engaging Dja Dja Wurrung to provide design input or interpretative information, which can enhance visitor or user experience of the relevant facilities
- securing internships/job placements for Dja Dja Wurrung members and grants to Dja Dja Wurrung artists
- ensuring that Dja Dja Wurrung cultural heritage is protected (as is required by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006).
DJAARA’s enterprise arm, Djandak, provides a range of services, including revegetation works, Dja Dja Wurrung-specific design input, fencing, environmental enhancement works, Aboriginal waterway assessments, and the construction of recreational facilities and public structures.
Benefits to local government
Active engagement with DJAARA also benefits councils.
- relationship building (leading to a more cohesive and inclusive community)
- access to unique design and landscape knowledge
- efficient and cost-effective services
- more diverse workplaces
- enhanced perspectives on proposed developments
- progress towards social responsibility and reconciliation goals.
Councils should consider LUAA requirements when planning projects. Each project will differ, but some general guidance on timeframes specified in the LUAA (and related documents) follows, along with ideas about how to make LUAA processes as efficient as possible.
Notifications for Advisory activities must allow 28 days for DJAARA to respond. On occasion, DJAARA might request additional time to allow more information to be provided or to enable traditional owners to properly consider the matter.
After receiving a response, there is no fixed timeline for further consultation and decision making. Council should allow a reasonable time to consider DJAARA’s response on its merits, take any further steps as appropriate (which might include, for example, meeting with DJAARA or visiting the site), and then decide whether and how to proceed with the land use activity.
Notifications for Negotiation activities do not specify a time for the initial response. However, they may mention that if agreement cannot be reached within six months of good faith negotiations, either party may seek an order from VCAT.
Making the processes efficient
DJAARA is governed by a board of directors that meets monthly to consider LUAA notifications (along with its other business). DJAARA can usually respond within 28 days if all necessary information is provided at the outset, including precise information and clear maps.
Please note that DJAARA has limited staff, and its directors are volunteers. At times, DJAARA cannot easily respond promptly. Engaging with DJAARA about planned activities before formal notification can reduce response time and, more importantly, enhance outcomes.
Delays can also occur if legal issues arise, such as questions regarding the correct method for valuing land affected by a Negotiation activity.
Councils should also factor financial considerations into their planning and budgeting. While it is not possible to identify these with precision, the following information may assist.
The LUAA and legislation do not prescribe financial costs for Advisory activities. Of course, suggestions or requests from DJAARA (such as for signage or project design alterations) may have financial implications. Councils should decide such requests with reference to benefits and costs.
For some Advisory activities, DJAARA may remind councils of their obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. These costs could include, for example, that of providing the opportunity for DJAARA to undertake a site visit prior to excavation or construction, or of having a cultural heritage monitor present during works. But these are not new or additional costs arising from the LUAA.
Negotiation and Agreement activities
The LUAA and Traditional Owner Settlement Act mention two sets of financial considerations regarding Negotiation and Agreement activities: community benefits, and reasonable negotiation costs.
Community benefits are negotiated with DJAARA in any negotiation or agreement process under the LUAA. The state (departments, not statutory authorities or local councils) must pay community benefits according to formulae in the LUAA. The formulae are based on percentages of the unimproved market value of the land (or on the value of rental received). By agreement with DJAARA, the state may pay some or all of the value of the community benefits in non-monetary form.
A local council can offer to use the formulae when it is the decision maker, but is not obliged to do so. Whether community benefits are paid, and their extent, is a matter for negotiation, along with any other conditions on the proposed activity. In the absence of agreement (after 6 months of good faith negotiation), these matters may be determined by VCAT.
Reasonable negotiation costs of the DDWCAC must be reimbursed by the “responsible person” for the proposed activity. The Traditional Owner Settlement (Negotiation Costs) Regulations 2015 mentions these potential costs:
- decision-making costs, such as site analysis, report writing and consideration of recommendations
- professional service costs, such as legal, economic, geological or engineering services
- travel costs, such as car expenses associated with site visits, or public transport to attend a special meeting.