Indigenous Land Use Agreement-Building Relationships between Karajarri Traditional Owners, the Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community la Grange Inc. and the Government of Western Australia

By Edgar, Joe | Australian Aboriginal Studies, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Indigenous Land Use Agreement-Building Relationships between Karajarri Traditional Owners, the Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community la Grange Inc. and the Government of Western Australia


Edgar, Joe, Australian Aboriginal Studies


Abstract: Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc. is located on the eastern shores of La Grange Bay, 200 kilometres south of Broome, Western Australia. Formerly known as La Grange Catholic Mission, the community has a population of around 800 residents, which comprises the traditional owner group--the Karajarri--and their traditional neighbours--the Mangala, Juwaliny, Yulparija and Nyangumarta--who moved on to the mission when it was established in 1955. The Yawuru, northern neighbours of the Karajarri, have generally lived on their own estates and on shared country where traditional boundaries overlapped; however, in recent years a small but significant number of Yawuru have settled at Bidyadanga and the Yardoogarra outstation 30 kilometres to the north, and regard Bidyadanga as a hub with its essential services and infrastructure. The Karajarri had their Native Title aspirations recognised by the Federal Court of Australia in 2002 and2004. The Karajarri Native Title determinations have become significant turning points for political and community relations between traditional owners and the Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc, and also affect the way government, non-government organisations and other stakeholders manoeuvre within claimed Native Title areas. In an attempt to shed some light on the complexities and challenges that confront the people at Bidyadanga today, this paper discusses the contemporary social, political and economic history of the former mission and its people, and comments on the new era of land management and political processes that governs and influences their lives. The author is a member of the Karajarri Traditional Lands Association where he has served as the deputy chair since 2002.

Introduction

At a hearing at Bidyadanga on 11 February 2002, Justice North of the Federal Court of Australia handed down a consent determination of Native Title in favour of the Karajarri Claimants. This event became a significant turning point in formal relationships between the Karajarri Traditional Lands Association (KTLA, a Registered Native Title Body Corporate or RNTBC) and Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc., which is representative of both its 'historical' people and the Karajarri who comprise almost a fifth of the community's population.

National Native Title legislation provides for an agreement making process which is utilised by governments to facilitate development on land subject to Native Title status, including the mandate of governments to provide essential services. Such developments are known as future acts, and the agreement making process is known as an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA). Under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), future acts give rise to rights for Native Title holders and applicants to be consulted or to negotiate their Native Title rights and interests. These rights can be addressed as part of an ILUA. (1) The KTLA has exclusive Native Title possession over an area of 24725 square kilometres, including the land around Bidyadanga, and non-exclusive Native Title rights over an additional 6494 square kilometres of adjacent pastoral properties, as recognised by the Federal Court in 2002 and 2004 (and see Bagshaw 2003 and Weir 2011). The Native Title status that Karajarri people now enjoy in effect obliges others who would desire to use and/or access traditional lands to undertake negotiations prescribed by the future acts regime (AGD 2011).

In mid-2008 Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc. proposed to build new infrastructure and housing in the community which required additional land on which to undertake such development. In accordance with the future acts regime, the community instigated ILUA negotiations with the Karajarri traditional owners. This negotiation is being facilitated by the Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) and its Department of Housing. The traditional owners are supported by the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) on legal matters, while legal advice and support for Bidyadanga community is being provided by a private lawyer. …

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