In Victoria, there are currently three different processes for groups to become formally recognised as Traditional Owners of Country.
Traditional Owners seeking formal recognition can pursue any or all of these processes.
Registered Aboriginal Party – Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006
Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) are responsible for managing Aboriginal cultural heritage within their appointed areas.
RAPs are appointed by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, a statutory body made up of Victorian Traditional Owners, established under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.
RAP responsibilities apply to all land and waters in a RAP’s appointed area.
Traditional Owners can apply to become a RAP by submitting an application form and supporting materials to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council.
Native Title Determination – Native Title Act 1993
Native title is a bundle of rights, including property rights held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples under their traditional laws and customs, which pre-dates colonisation and is recognised by Australian law.
Native title applies to public land and waters, except where native title has been ‘extinguished’.
Native title is determined by the Federal Court of Australia or, on appeal, by the High Court. To initiate this process, an application is made to the Federal Court by Traditional Owners.
Recognition and Settlement Agreement – Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010
The Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 provides a framework for the recognition of Traditional Owner rights and settlement of native title claims in Victoria.
Recognition and Settlement Agreements apply to public land and waters with some exceptions.
A Recognition and Settlement Agreement is negotiated by Traditional Owners with the Victorian Government. It provides recognition and a financial and land management package.