Western Australia: information on engaging with traditional owners

Native Title Representative Bodies

For the purposes of claim management, Western Australia is divided into six claim regions. As of 2 April 2015, the following NTRBs represent and support traditional owner groups and PBCs within their assigned region. However, native title claimants can choose independent representation if they wish to do so. The Land, Approvals and Native Title Unit website contains information about the claim regions.

The six NTRBs in Western Australia are:

More information regarding NTRBs, NTSPs and PBCs is contained in the native section on this website.

Case study

Yamatji Marlpa – Rio Tinto Agreements

In 2011, four Pilbara native title claim groups signed comprehensive native title agreements with Rio Tinto Iron Ore. This was followed in 2012 by a fifth group, the Yinhawangka people.

The agreements were results of years of extensive negotiations between the groups represented by YMAC and the Rio Tinto Iron Ore group. The final agreements give Rio Tinto certainty for its existing and future operations in the areas covered by the five native title claim groups.

Under the agreements, the native title claim groups negotiated a range of economic and non-economic benefits. These include an income stream from mining on their lands, training and job opportunities, access to contracts for services for Rio Tinto and support for environmental and heritage activities. The agreements also include mining exclusion zones that recognise the importance of significant sites such as burial and ceremonial sites, as well as important water holes and ecologically sensitive areas.

Rigorous corporate governance and benefit management structures have been put in place for the successful implementation of the agreements. Since the agreements were signed, YMAC has assisted all five groups to appoint trustees and set up their own corporations that meet the requirements of the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) and the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act).

Agreement making in Western Australia

The Land, Approvals and Native Title Unit provides comprehensive information about native title and land use and access agreements. The majority of land use agreements in Western Australia are made under the right to negotiate (the RTN). Where the RTN applies, registered native title applicants can negotiate over proposed future acts, such as the granting of a mining lease or the compulsory acquisition of native title rights and interests.

Agreements reached under the RTN usually include access and heritage protection, as well as compensation for the loss or impairment of the native title rights and interests. An RTN agreement is contractually binding for all parties involved in the negotiation.

The Western Australian Government has published two useful guides to assist in the negotiation of ILUAs:

  1. Guide to the Government Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Standard Heritage Agreements
  2. Guide for Third Party Indigenous Land Use Agreements

In WA, over fifty ILUA's have been registered. A selection of significant ILUA's are included on the Land, Approvals and Native Title Unit website.

Case study

Yawuru Agreements

The Yawuru Prescribed Body Corporate Indigenous Land Use Agreement and the Yawuru Area Agreement Indigenous Land Use Agreement (the Yawuru Agreements) is between the WA Government, the Yawuru people and other parties, and covers approximately 973 square kilometres of land in and around Broome. The agreements finalised in 2010 address matters affecting land development, by resolving heritage issues and by releasing the State from any liability for compensation related to the Rubibi native claim. The agreements also provide $56 million in monetary benefits for the Yawuru for:

  • capacity building
  • preservation of culture and heritage
  • economic development
  • housing
  • joint management of a proposed conservation estate.

Read summaries about the two agreements on the 'Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements website'.

Access permits

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs issues permits for Western Australia. Entry permits are required for entry onto or through certain Aboriginal lands trust reserves.

There are two types of permits:

Transit permits generally issued on a short-term basis for tourism or recreation purposes. Transit permits are not applicable to people wishing to enter reserves for mining purposes, except where entry is required for consultation purposes only.

Mining access permits are required for any mining activity (surveying and/or marking out of tenements, fossicking, prospecting, exploring and mining) on any Aboriginal reserve and travelling through such Aboriginal reserves to access mining tenements outside of the reserve for prospecting, exploration or mining purposes.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs issues mining entry permits after seeking the views of the Aboriginal Lands Trust, which in turn must be satisfied that there has been adequate consultation with any resident Aboriginal community and relevant native title interests.

There is an on-line permit system and applications for routine transit permits can generally be processed within a day.