The Act was passed in 1991 to facilitate the transfer of three Aboriginal burial sites or cemeteries at the former missions at Coranderrk, Ebenezer and Ramahyuck to local Aboriginal organisations. The Act authorised the GIC to grant an estate in fee simple (or freehold title) to the following titleholders:
- Coranderrk Mission Cemetery - to Wurundjeri
- Ebenezer Mission Cemetery - to Goolum Goolum; and
- Ramahyuck Mission Cemetery - to GEGAC
These three titleholders received freehold land, which was subject to two restrictions under the Act:
- The 'Use Restriction': a condition in each of the Crown grants that the land must be used for Aboriginal cultural and burial purposes (section 6(5)); and
- The 'Transfer Restriction': a condition that the titleholders must not sell or transfer their ownership of the land (section 7).
On 22 September 2020, DPC circulated a Discussion Paper to the stakeholders. The Discussion Paper was designed to allow stakeholders who are affected by the Act to have their say on its future operation and potential options for reform. On 20 November 2020, DPC issued a Supplement to the Discussion Paper which provided advice around native title considerations arising out of Option 6 and provided as additional Option 8.
The Discussion Paper and Supplement canvassed the below options:
- amending the Act to remove one or both restrictions for all three cemeteries
- amending the Act to remove one or both restrictions for only specific cemeteries, as requested by titleholders
- enacting new legislation which removes the Use Restriction on the title, and repeals the current Act to remove the Transfer Restriction
- removing only the Transfer Restrictions by repealing the current Act, but leaving the Use Restriction (which will remain on the title)
- amending the Act to allow the GIC to remove one or both restrictions
- amending the Act to allow the titleholders to surrender their titles back to the Crown, for them to be re-issued without either of the restrictions
- do nothing, or
- amending the Act to empower the Registrar of Titles to remove the Use Restriction upon the making of an application by the titleholder.
The scope of the consultation process extended to the titleholders and Traditional Owner groups of the land on which the three cemeteries are located.
The breadth of consultation was deemed appropriate, given the Act only governs the use and transfer of cultural burial sites for some Aboriginal Victorians. The principles of self-determination underpinned DPC's decision to engage only with the Aboriginal organisations whose interests are affected by the Act; granting these communities the right to determine how the Act may best serve their interests of Aboriginal self-determination.
The below timeline summarises the key steps in the consultation process:
- June 2018 - The then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon. Natalie Hutchins MP, sent letters to the titleholders under the Act to advise the Act would be reviewed.
- Mid 2019 - DPC staff met individually with the titleholders to discuss the review and obtain initial feedback on the goals and aspirations of each titleholder in relation to the cemetery titles.
- December and January 2020 - At BGLC's request, DPC and BGLC met to discuss the matter of Ebenezer Mission Cemetery.
- September 2020 - The acting Deputy Secretary, Social Policy Group, Brigid Monagle, emailed the Discussion Paper to all five stakeholders to support submissions to the review.
- November 2020 - DPC emailed the Supplement to the Discussion Paper to all five stakeholders, to provide native title considerations and canvas an additional option.
- November 2020 to January 2021 - DPC received written submission from all five stakeholders between 13 November 2020 and 20 January 2021.
- July and August 2023 - DPC met with titleholders and Traditional Owners to confirm policy positions and finalise the legislative recommendations.
Summary of Feedback
The below summarises stakeholder submissions and preferred options for the Act's amendment.
|Coranderrk Mission Cemetery
Option 7 - Do nothing; or
Option 2 - Amend the Act to remove either the Transfer Restriction or the Use Restriction or both for only specific cemeteries as requested by titleholders (not Coranderrk Mission Cemetery).
|Ebenezer Mission Cemetery
|Option 2 - Amend the Act to remove either the Transfer Restriction or the Use Restriction for Ebenezer Mission Cemetery.
|Ramahyuck Mission Cemetery
|Option 2 - Amend the Act to remove either the Transfer Restriction or the Use Restriction for Ramahyuck Mission Cemetery.