The Yamatji Nation Indigenous Land Use Agreement (Yamatji Nation Agreement), which covers more than 48,000 square kilometres of land in the Mid-West, was signed on 24 February 2020, following a Federal Court hearing on 7 February recognising the native title rights and interests of the Yamatji Nation over significant parcels of land.
The Agreement provides an enduring benefits package to ensure self-determination and long-term economic independence for the people of the Yamatji Nation and comprises the following components: cash, economic development opportunities, cultural heritage protection measures, recognition of native title, housing, governance, land, and conservation estate as well as access to water.
Acknowledging the importance of land to the people of the Yamatji Nation, the benefits package includes the creation of the Yamatji Land Estate from a pool of approximately 150,000 hectares of Crown land to be transferred in freehold, conditional freehold and managed reserve, and the creation of the Yamatji Conservation Estate comprising approximately 690,000 hectares, including new and existing Conservation Park and National Park areas and some jointly managed areas.
The package also includes funding for business development, the transfer of commercial land, joint ventures, tourism opportunities and access to housing properties for sale, leasing or development.
Additionally, there are revenue streams from mining rental and leasing or sale of land in the Oakajee Industrial Estate, as well as a Strategic Aboriginal Water Reserve for use or trade.
For further information on the status of the Agreement or other aspects outside of the land and heritage components, please email the Department of the Premier and Cabinet YamatjiNationAgreement@dpc.wa.gov.au.
Native Title and recognition
Since November 2017, the State Government and native title parties have been negotiating terms for an alternative settlement of native title involving all of the Yamatji Nation, Hutt River, Southern Yamatji and Widi Mob native title claims and a portion of the Mullewa Wadjari native title claim.
In February 2020, the State Government and native title parties executed the Yamatji Nation Agreement and the Federal Court made a determination of native title in respect of the five claims.
With the conclusive registration of the Yamatji Nation Agreement, native title has been recognised and then surrendered over the majority of the Yamatji Nation Agreement Area. This means that non-exclusive native title rights and interests are recognised over culturally significant parcels of land in the Agreement area, which are termed the Native Title Areas. The Native Title Areas include portions of the former Barnong, Menai Hills and Kadji Kadji pastoral leases and parcels of land near the Wandana Nature Reserve, as well as Lucky Bay and two Aboriginal Lands Trust properties.
The Preamble to the Yamatji Nation Agreement includes an acknowledgement of the Yamatji Nation people’s connection to the land and recognises the traditional laws and customs that guide their cultural responsibility to the land. The Agreement recognises the diversity of all the identity groups that make up the Yamatji Nation and acknowledges that this land was, and always will be, Yamatji country.
The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage’s Agreements team, within the Land Use Management Division, is tasked with implementing the land components under the Yamatji Nation Agreement.
The Yamatji Nation Agreement:
- will establish the Yamatji Land Estate, which will consist of land selected by the people of the Yamatji Nation from a pool of approximately 150,000 hectares of Crown land, including eight Aboriginal Lands Trust properties (eligible land)
- places an obligation on the State to quarantine all Eligible Land from dealings until 2025
- places an obligation on the State to make payments if and when there is a sale of Encroached Land within the Agreement Area
- will establish the Yamatji Conservation Estate, which will involve creating new Conservation Park and National Park areas and extending the boundaries of some existing conservation areas.
Yamatji Land Estate
The Yamatji Land Estate will be held by the Yamatji landholding bodies established under the Agreement and is intended to provide significant opportunities for the people of the Yamatji Nation to achieve sustainable economic, social and cultural outcomes.
Continued access to land and waters for social, cultural and economic purposes is of high importance to the Yamatji Nation. Much of the land included in the Yamatji Nation Agreement was chosen by the Yamatji people because of its cultural significance, while other land parcels have been selected because of economic development potential.
The Yamatji Land Estate will comprise the following land, if selected by the Yamatji Nation:
- up to 134,440 hectares (1344 square kilometres) of land as reserve and
- up to 14,650 hectares (146.5 square kilometres) of land as freehold or conditional freehold.
Approximately 3000 hectares (30 square kilometres) have been identified in the Agreement as a priority to transfer once the Yamatji landholding bodies are ready.
How was the land chosen?
At the start of the negotiations, the State Government agreed to identify all unencumbered, unallocated Crown land and unmanaged reserves within the Agreement Area that may be suitable to be held and managed by the Yamatji landholding bodies.
Over the past three years, the State Government and the Yamatji Nation’s traditional owner representatives agreed on a list of Eligible Land that will be available for transfer to the Yamatji landholding bodies if selected, subject to any agreed conditions.
What tenure will the land be transferred in?
What tenure will the land be transferred in?
Land will be transferred to the Yamatji landholding bodies in their preferred tenure including:
- managed reserve
- conditional freehold.
How and when will the land be transferred into the Yamatji Land Estate?
The land will be transferred into the Yamatji Land Estate in accordance with the Yamatji Land Estate Strategy within the Yamatji Nation Agreement. The Strategy sets out the Land Transfer Process, which includes targets for selection and transfer of land that the State Government and the Yamatji Nation must work towards over the five years of implementation.
Land Transfers will be coordinated by the Yamatji Land Working Group, established under the Agreement and consisting of representatives of the State Government and the Yamatji Nation, and are expected to commence in October 2022, when the Yamatji landholding bodies are established and ready to accept land.
How will the land be owned and managed?
All freehold and conditional freehold land will be owned by the Joint Trustees appointed under the Agreement and comprising a licensed trustee and the Yamatji Trustee. All reserves will be managed by Bundi Yamatji Aboriginal Corporation.
Once freehold land is transferred to the Joint Trustees, it can be used for whatever purpose the Joint Trustees decide is appropriate. Any further dealings on freehold land, including the potential sale or lease of the land, will be made by the Joint Trustees.
All reserve land will be held under a management order that allows Bundi Yamatji Aboriginal Corporation to control and manage State land for the benefit of the Yamatji Nation. Reserves are overseen by the Minister for Lands under the Land Administration Act 1997. The management order may include the power to lease, sublease or license any part of the reserve, with the consent of the Minister for Lands.
Is privately owned or leased land proposed to be included in the Yamatji Land Estate?
There is no privately-held or owned land committed under the Yamatji Nation Agreement. State land that is currently leased to a third party (for example, a pastoral lease) is also not available for transfer under the Agreement.
What is the process for applying to use land proposed to be included in the Yamatji Land Estate?
The State Government has an obligation to quarantine all land proposed to be included in the Yamatji Land Estate from all dealings until 2025. There are limited circumstances in which this land may be removed from quarantine with the consent of the Yamatji landholding bodies.
Applications for proposed dealings on land to be included in the Yamatji Land Estate can be submitted to the Department following the usual process of submitting a Crown Land Enquiry Form. The Department will then undertake an assessment of the proposal and provide advice on any requirements to progress the proposal.
Aboriginal Lands Trust Divestment
The transfer of properties is in line with the ALT Strategic Action Plan 2019-2021 to divest the estate in accordance with the aspirations of native title holders and Aboriginal residents.
As parties to the Yamatji Nation Agreement, the Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) and Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority have committed to divest eight properties to the Yamatji landholding bodies.
If you have any questions regarding specific ALT properties under the Agreement, please contact the project team via YamatjiNationLands@dplh.wa.gov.au
The Yamatji Nation Agreement Area (Agreement Area) encompasses 11 local governments.
In accordance with section 14 of the Land Administration Act 1997, local governments within the Agreement Area were engaged and invited to advise the Department on:
whether there are existing local interests in the land proposed to be included into the Yamatji Land Estate
- whether there are future proposals for the same land or land within the same general location
- whether there are planning schemes that could affect future use of the land
- whether there are any relevant land management issues
- any other advice they may wish to provide about the potential transfer of the land.
Payment of rates - Local Government Act 1995
The Yamatji landholding bodies will be required to meet the standard costs, including rates and service charges, associated with owning and managing land. Land may be exempt from rates under section 6.26(2)(g) of the Local Government Act 1995, where that land is used exclusively for charitable purposes.
However, if land is used for a commercial purpose or leased for a commercial enterprise, it may be rateable.
Compliance with zoning and planning laws
The Yamatji landholding bodies will be required to comply with all applicable laws and obtain standard planning, development and other regulatory approvals to develop or undertake activities on the Yamatji Land Estate. Any lessee of Yamatji Land Estate will also need to comply with all applicable laws.
Any local government that would like a briefing on the Yamatji Land Estate can contact the project team via YamatjiNationLands@dplh.wa.gov.au.
Yamatji Conservation Estate
The State Government, through the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), will expend $22,040,000 over 10 years for the creation and management of the Yamatji Conservation Estate. The Yamatji Conservation Estate will comprise a total of approximately 690,000 hectares of which approximately 470,000 hectares will be new Conservation Parks, new National Parks and extensions to existing conservation estate areas to be jointly vested and jointly managed by the State Government and Bundi Yamatji Aboriginal Corporation.
The Department will work collaboratively with DBCA to deliver this outcome. More information can be found on the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions website