• The On Country program will see Indigenous Elders and Traditional owners combat reoffending and crime with culture. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
A $7.5 million native title settlement over the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve was reached this week between Traditional Owners and the WA government.
Mikele Syron

31 Oct 2020 - 1:27 AM  UPDATED 31 Oct 2020 - 1:31 AM

A native title settlement agreement over the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve will see almost 19,000 square kilometres returned to Traditional Owners and renamed the Pila Nature Reserve.

The Lurrtjurrlulu Palakitjalu Settlement Agreement between the WA government and Traditional Owners includes an investment of $7.5 million over a 10-year period that will go towards providing employment and training opportunities for Traditional Owners at Patjarr, Warburton and surrounding communities. 

The Pila Nature Reserve will be jointly managed by the Warnpurru Aboriginal Corporation and the Conservation and Parks Commission, with the settlement package also providing funding to improve infrastructure within Patjarr Community to support joint management.

Central Desert Native Title Service lawyer Malcolm O’Dell, who is acting for Warnpurru Aboriginal Corporation, told NITV News the agreement was a culmination of an 18-year journey to have the native title of Traditional Owners recognised.  

“The corporation looks forward to the opportunity and challenge of working with the government in ensuring that the Country is properly cared for,” said Mr O’Dell.

“Traditional Owners are ecstatic about the outcome and the recognition of ownership and native title which was previously extinguished but has now been returned.

“It is a particularly exciting time for the community Elders who have been working toward this for many years, as this decision is a reflection of their hard work."

In a statement, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in WA, Ben Wyatt, said the settlement agreement would deliver better economic and social benefits to the area's Traditional Owners.

"All those who have worked so hard to get to this day appreciate the significance of signing this agreement to jointly manage the Pila Nature Reserve," he said. 

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The committee examining the destruction of cultural heritage at Juukan Gorge will travel to Western Australia next week to speak with Traditional Owners on Country and visit the site of the blast.