One of the biggest native title deals in Australian history has inched forward but could be challenged in the Federal Court by dissenting Traditional Owners.
The $1.3 billion agreement - which was officially registered on Wednesday - recognises the Noongar people as the Traditional Owners of Western Australia’s south west.
The decision begins the process of formalising six land use agreements covering about 200,000 square kilometres from Jurien Bay to Ravensthorpe.
Under the terms of the deal, Western Australia would pay $600 million over 12 years into a trust and another $120 million to six Aboriginal corporations representing each of the claim areas.
WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt described it as "one of the most significant native title agreements in the country" but conceded that settlement would only begin after all legal proceedings were exhausted.
"The Noongar community has been waiting a long time, and have worked incredibly hard to see this agreement progress,” he said.
“I would urge everyone to get behind the settlement to ensure that the flow of benefits to the Noongar community can commence as soon as possible."
The move was welcomed by Jeanice Krakouer, the chairwoman of South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council which represented six claimant groups in the negotiations.
“We are delighted with the outcome,” she said.
“This is a great opportunity for the Noongar People to come together, to control our own destiny, and to build a solid future for generations to come.”
The settlement has taken more than eight years to reach this point and has not been without controversy.
The deal requires native title claimants to withdraw their claims and some, like activist Mervyn Eades oppose any kind of settlement.
He was one of four dissident Noongar representatives who invalidated the deal in court last year.
“Some people say if we don’t do this, ‘what will we have?’” Mr Eades told NITV.
“You know what? We had nothing for the last 230 years, I don’t think we should surrender and relinquish our rights for any money ever. We let not only our Elders down, and our ancestors, we’re letting all our people down.”
The deadline to contest the Native Title Registrar’s decision via a request for a judicial review is November 14.