The McGowan Government today signed a long-awaited agreement with the traditional owners of the Tjuntjuntjara Community, reflecting their native title rights and formally acknowledging their community in its current location.
Lands Minister Tony Buti and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson visited the community to meet with traditional owners and finalise the agreement, which will enable formal tenure to be granted over the community’s living area.
More than 78,500 hectares of land will be excised from the Class A Great Victoria Desert Nature Reserve to grant a perpetual lease, suitable to enable further development of the community and deliver improved social, economic and cultural outcomes for residents.
The Tjuntjuntjara community has existed on the western extent of the nature reserve since at least 1988 but has never had a registrable interest over the area it occupies. A lack of formal tenure has previously limited the community’s ability to seek investment for critically required infrastructure, while also restricting its pursuit of on-ground economic activities.
The agreement follows a $23.8 million investment in improving housing, power, water and sewerage facilities at Tjuntjuntjara and the passing of the Reserves (Tjuntjuntjara Community) Act 2018.
Upon registration of the agreement with the National Native Title Tribunal, the remaining provisions of the Reserves Act will be proclaimed, formalising the excision, enabling the grant of new tenure and requiring Ministerial consent and consultation with the community before any mining and petroleum exploration and recovery on the land.
The native title rights of the Spinifex People were recognised over 20 years ago; the first determination of native title in Western Australia following the commencement of the operation of the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993.
As stated by Lands Minister Tony Buti:
“Today is a very special event for the Spinifex People and the residents of Tjuntjuntjara with the signing of this agreement marking the end of a long campaign for formal acknowledgement of their community.
“It paves the way for registrable tenure and removing barriers that have otherwise constrained further development of the community.
“This agreement is another step forward to improving services and infrastructure, adding to the existing facilities in the community and delivering greater social and economic outcomes for Tjuntjuntjara residents.”
As stated by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson:
“Tjuntjuntjara is a proud community that has occupied this area for more than 30 years, steadily expanding facilities and infrastructure to complement the traditional cultural cycles of life in the Western Desert region.
“However, until now, a lack of formal land tenure has limited the ability of the community to pursue economic and social activities in the community, upgrade and expand housing and critical infrastructure, and create jobs and training opportunities for residents.
“Agreements such as these are a great example of how the McGowan Government is working to Close the Gap, ensuring the strong economic participation and development of Aboriginal people and their communities.
“This is a great day for the Spinifex People and a resounding acknowledgement of their native title rights, and I am honoured to be part of this ceremony.”
Lands Minister’s office – 6552 6400
Aboriginal Affairs Minister’s office – 6552 5800