Native title settlement an Australian first

Nicole Asher, BUNBURY HERALD
Australian First: South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council deputy chair Glen Colbung and chief executive Glen Kelly. Picture: Laurie Benson

Noongar people of the Gnaala Karla Booja area around Bunbury voted to accept an Australian-first $1 billion native title settlement at a meeting on Saturday.

Close to 300 Noongar people voted for the settlement that would, over 12 years, contribute to a future fund aimed at promoting Noongar culture and investment and give land access rights to the people.

The Bunbury vote was the first of six elections which will decide whether the South West's Noongar people accept the State Government settlement or take the native title claim to the courts.

Despite a contingent of vocal no vote campaigners from Perth, 70 per cent of the electors voted in favour of the settlement.

The vote means the people from the Gnaala Karla Booja area, which includes Bunbury, Mandurah and Donnybrook, support an out-of-court settlement which would forfeit their native title rights in exchange for joint-management rights to national parks, a future fund accrued over 12 years to invest in Noongar investments and culture and access to land for traditional cultural purposes.

South West Land and Sea Council chief executive officer Glen Kelly called the vote a success with a great outcome.

He said if endorsed the settlement would be of international significance that could be used as a template for other native title claims.

"There's nothing that comes anything near the magnitude of this in Australia," Mr Kelly said.

He said about 400 people were expected, but fires in the area and two funerals prevented some from attending.

Mr Kelly said although some no-voters attempted to derail the meeting and "intimidate and disrespect" other voters, the final show-of-hands ballot recorded 260 votes in support of the settlement.

The next meeting will take place on February 14 in Busselton, with the final meeting in Perth on March 28.

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