A number of key politicians are attending the National Native Title Conference in Broome, expected to focus on treaty discussions and how it will affect native title.
This year’s theme “Many Laws, One Land: Legal and political co-existence” will acknowledge the coexistence of black and white laws within Australia.
“[The theme] is about native title and the rights these laws gave us and the Traditional Owners of this land,” Kimberley Land Council CEO Anthony Watson said.
Senator Pat Dodson, West Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt and the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion are expected to take part in conversations regarding water rights, cultural heritage, exclusive possession native title, and conflicts of law.
During the opening ceremony, Minister Scullion announced the Federal Government would provide $40 million towards Indigenous Land Councils purchasing water rights in the Murray Darling Basin.
Minister Scullion also stated new funding would be given for Native Title Councils to support regional forums of Prescribed Bodies Corporates (PBCs).
“I am pleased to announce today funding for AIATSIS to grow its support for PBCs by sharing information on best practice solutions; and funding to prepare a toolbox for native title holders looking to use their land,” he said.
“For too long Native Title holders haven’t been given the local decision making power that you need.”
Six hundred thousand dollars will be funded to increase communities’ understanding of their determinations.
“I want all native title holders to understand what their rights mean in practice. Native title does not end at the court door, it starts there… This is your land and the only people who should make a decision about your country is you,” he told the record-breaking crowd of hundreds.
Broome local and proud Yawuru man, Senator Pat Dodson, also attended the opening ceremony.
The Labour politician told the delegates his main concern around native title is the issue of compensation.
“It’s the details of these good intentions that really have to be analysed and thought about when it comes to native title,” he said.
“No compensation flows when prior ownership is denied.”
Around 46 per cent of all land in Australia is now Indigenous land, including 12 per cent that sits as exclusive native title. Currently are more native title determinations than applications.
Senator Dodson says many First Nations people miss out on great opportunities because the land was taken off them, rather than negotiations occurring.
“Once native title has been extinguished, it comes extinguished under the western laws … native title rights are eliminated,” he said.
The Senator called for new action around surrendering land rights.
“Any Indigenous Land Use agreement under the terms of the Native Title Act should be done without giving up native title rights.”
An estimated 800 Indigenous delegates from across the country travelled to the Kimberley town of Broome for the three-day event.
The conference is held annually during the first week of June to coincide with Mabo Day.
The event is organised in partnership with the Kimberley Land Council, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Yawuru Elder, Dianne Appleby, welcomed the many visitors to her country.
“This town of Broome represents Yawuru… Yawuru people is rich in tradition and culture,” she said.
“Yawuru spirit still remains across this country.”