On 13 December 2005, the Federal Court made its first determination that native title exists in south‑eastern Australia. This recognised the native title of the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk People of the Wotjobaluk Nations (WJJWJ People) in certain areas of the Wimmera and Southern Mallee. This was a ‘consent determination’ under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwth), where all parties to the claim agreed to Federal Court orders recognising native title.
The 2005 native title settlement included:
- an Indigenous Land Use Agreement, recognising close ties to traditional lands and agreements to transfer culturally significant land parcels
- licensing arrangements for hunting, fishing, and gathering
- a consultation process for public land use
- a Cooperative Management Agreement over areas including parts of the Little Desert and Wyperfeld National Parks and Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, and
- funding for the Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BGLC) (the Prescribed Body Corporate that represents the WJJWJ People for native title purposes).
In 2013, the 2005 native title agreements were reviewed by the State and the BGLC. The review recommended that the State and the WJJWJ People consider future opportunities to enhance the 2005 agreements, such as by entering into a Recognition and Settlement Agreement under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) (TOS Act).
In August 2017, the Victorian Government and the WJJWJ People formally commenced negotiations towards a Recognition and Settlement Agreement under the TOS Act.
WJJWJ People’s Recognition and Settlement Agreement 2022
On 25 October 2022, the Victorian Government and BGLC, signed agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) and related legislation.
The Recognition and Settlement Agreement (RSA) commenced on 13 December 2022.
The boundaries of the area extend approximately from Ouyen in the north to Ararat in the south, and from the South Australian-Victorian border in the west to Donald in the east.
The Agreement area is bordered generally by:
- the Eastern Maar native title consent determination area to the south
- the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Recognition and Settlement Agreement area to the south-east.
The WJJWJ People’s Recognition and Settlement Agreement area
Download the map
Benefits of the RSA
The RSA will benefit all Victorians by:
- promoting reconciliation
- improving the cultural and economic wellbeing of the WJJWJ People
- providing more resources for land management within the agreement area.
The TOS Act recognises the need to provide for agreements to be negotiated between the State and Traditional Owner groups as a means of advancing reconciliation, in addition to negotiating outcomes in relation to native title resolution.
The settlement package includes a range of redress measures
The package includes:
- funding to support BGLC to manage the settlement’s benefits and obligations, and undertake economic development
- measures to strengthen WJJWJ People’s culture
- grants of 12 parks and reserves as Aboriginal title, to be jointly managed with the State
- grants of up to four surplus public land parcels as freehold title; and
- resourcing and strategies for the WJJWJ People to access, use, and manage natural resources.
How the agreement will affect different rights and interests in land
Freehold title rights
The RSA will not affect freehold title rights. It includes public lands and waters only within the agreement area.
Existing rights and interests on public land
Existing leases, licences and other rights and interests will not be affected.
Rights for Traditional Owners to natural resources
The RSA recognises the WJJWJ People’s rights to access public land within the agreement area to hunt, fish, camp, and gather natural resources.
Business on public land
The WJJWJ People’s RSA does not include a Land Use Activity Agreement (LUAA). The State and BGLC have committed to continue negotiations in good faith to finalise the terms of the LUAA.
Parks and reserves that will be granted to BGLC
The following areas will be granted to BGLC as Aboriginal title:
- Black Range State Park
- Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park
- Wyperfeld National Park
- Little Desert National Park
- Lake Albacutya Park
- Lake Hindmarsh Lake Reserve
- Barrabool Flora and Fauna Reserve
- Wail State Forest (portion only)
- Big Desert Wilderness Area
- Red Rock Bushland Reserve
- Horsham Police Paddock Reserve
- Ararat Regional Park (portion east of the Western Highway)
Changes to the way these parks and reserves will be managed
The Aboriginal title lands will be jointly managed by the State and BGLC through a Traditional Owner Land Management Board (to be established).
In all cases, the parks and reserves will continue to be managed under the same Act of Parliament by which they are reserved, but will also be subject to a joint management plan developed by the Traditional Owner Land Management Board. Following public consultation, the Minister for Environment considers the Board’s plan. The Minister’s approval is required before the plan comes into effect.
A Traditional Owner Land Management Board will be established by the Minister for Environment after the settlement commences. A majority of members will be nominated by BGLC. The remaining members, representing the State and the broader community, will be nominated by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).
The Board will develop a joint management plan that will set the strategic direction for the land.
Joint management will benefit both WJJWJ People and the wider community by recognising WJJWJ People’s culture and knowledge, providing quality visitor and tourism experiences, improving public education and conserving, protecting and enhancing natural and cultural values.
Parks Victoria will continue to carry out day-to-day management and will permanently keep some core management functions. This includes fire management and catchment management including designated water supply catchment areas under the National Parks Act 1975 (Vic).
Access and use of jointly managed lands
Jointly managed areas will continue to be managed under the relevant public land Act under which they are reserved. Protections around existing use and access contained in these Acts and regulations will continue to apply.
The joint management plan embeds Traditional Owner knowledge, values and expertise in the management of the jointly managed land. The drafting process for the plan will include public consultation. The joint management plan must be consistent with Victorian Government state-wide policy to maintain public access.
Existing licences or leases on joint management land will be protected, friends groups can continue to operate and recreational fishing and hunting will continue.
Freehold title grants under the RSA to the WJJWJ People
BGLC will have the option of being granted any or all of the following surplus public land properties:
- Part of a former school at 6-16 Briggs Street, Glenorchy
- Part of a former school at the corner of Budjik and Sport Street, Kaniva
- The Wail Nursery and part of Wail State Forest, Wail
The State also commits to grant the first right of refusal to the BGLC to buy freehold title to certain public land at Wail, should it become surplus to State needs.
In addition, the State will use best endeavours to return Ebenezer Mission land and (subject to its closure) the Ebenezer Mission Road reserve to the BGLC.
The State will also return freehold land known as ‘Sisters Rocks’ near Stawell to the BGLC under the Land Act 1958 (Vic).
Downloadable versions of the WJJWJ Agreements and Map