THE State Government and the Dja Dja Wurrung people have reached a landmark native title settlement that formally recognises the Dja Dja Wurrung people as the traditional owner group for lands in central Victoria.
Attorney-General Robert Clark, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Jeanette Powell and Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith attended a ceremony in Bendigo last week at which an agreement under the Victorian Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 was formally signed by the government and representatives of the Dja Dja Wurrung people.
The settlement achieves full and final resolution of native title claims to approximately 266,532 hectares of Crown land - about three per cent of all Crown land in Victoria.
Dja Dja Wurrung peoples runs roughly between the centre of Lake Buloke, near Donald, north-east through Boort to Kow Swamp, near Leitchville and south almost to Mt Macedon, extending in a westerly direction to the north of Moorabool Reservoir and through Lake Learmonth, and then north through Amphitheatre and Kara Kara State Park, and then along the Avon and Richardson Rivers.
The financial value of the settlement package is $9.65 million, with funding to enable the Dja Dja Wurrung Corporation to meet its settlement obligations and advance the cultural and economic aspirations of Dja Dja Wurrung people.
Mr Clark said the settlement was the result of detailed and constructive negotiations between the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owner representatives, Native Title Services Victoria and the Government.
"The Victorian Government is pleased to have reached this settlement in a way that has avoided costly litigation, while assisting the traditional owner community to develop a sustainable future," Mr Clark said.
Chair of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Graham Atkinson has warmly welcomed the settlement.
"This is an historic day for the Dja Dja Wurrung people and the wider community. We have come together as a recognised Traditional Owner group and worked to achieve a settlement with the state that will give us certainty and the opportunity to determine our own sustainable future," he said.
"Dja Dja Wurrung's connection to this area for thousands of years is finally being acknowledged in the formal recognition that we are the Traditional Owners of this area.
"We will now be able to fulfil our cultural and spiritual obligation to look after this country and preserve our culture, not only for the future generations of Dja Dja Wurrung people, but for all Victorians who can be proud to share this country with the Dja Dja Wurrung people - one of the oldest living cultures in the world."
Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Ryan Smith said the state would partner with the Dja Dja Wurrung people to improve land and natural resource management within the Agreement Area, providing benefits to the whole central Victorian community.
"This settlement provides certainty about who the traditional owners are in the Agreement Area, meaning the wider community, businesses and Crown land managers can deal effectively and conclusively with the Dja Dja Wurrung people on land management matters," he said.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Jeanette Powell said the agreement would increase economic opportunities for the Dja Dja Wurrung people.
"The settlement includes seed capital payments, investment planning and business development components, assisting the Dja Dja Wurrung people to achieve economic and employment outcomes in the Agreement Area," she said.
The traditional owner rights under the agreement will co-exist with the interests of the general public and third parties. Existing interests in, and public access to, Crown land will not be affected by the settlement.
The legal agreements comprising the settlement package were signed today by representatives of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and by the Attorney-General, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on behalf of the Victorian Government.