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Western Desert claim settled

July 1996

Land Rights News Vol 2 No 39 Jul 1996.

Traditional landowners were spared the exhaustive process of presenting evidence before the Federal Land Commissioner when the final part of the Western Desert Land Claim was settled by the Central Land Council (CLC) and the Northern Territory Government in May.

The settlement of the claim over 2,936 sq kms of land abutting the Western Australian border, recognises the strong cultural and spiritual links traditional owners have maintained over the land. It also provides certainty as to the future status of the land to third parties such as exploration and mining companies active in the region.

This claim was the northern most part of the original Western Desert Claim which was not recommended for grant.

The CLC, on instructions from claimants, proposed a settlement offer which incorporated the interests of the Parks and Wildlife Commission - the old Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory - which had raised environmental issues during the original claim. Agreement on the terms and conditions included a provision that the NT Government will not oppose the scheduling of the land claim area into the Aboriginal Land Rights(Northern Territory) Act. (ALRA)

Under the agreement a committee of four traditional owners and two Parks and Wildlife representatives will oversee fire management, feral animal control and flora and fauna surveys at which the CLC will have observer status.

This committee will run for five years and the traditional landowners have agreed that they will not run cattle on the area for that time. Traditional owners are now awaiting the scheduling of the area under the ALRA by the new Federal Government in line with the settlement agreement.