Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement
|Date: ||29 October 2010|
|Sub Category:||Joint Management Agreement|
|Place:||Barmah State Park|
|The agreement relates to the Barmah National Park, which is located on the Murray River near the town of Barmah. Barmah National Park covers approximately 28,521 hectares. Barmah National Park adjoins Millewa forest in New South Wales,and together this area constitutes the largest River Red Gum forest in the world. |
|Subject Matter:|| | Cultural Heritage | Land Management | Management / Administration|
|Summary Information: |
|The Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement was agreed between:
- the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation
- the Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change
The purpose of the agreement is to provide for the joint management of Barmah National Park.|
|Detailed Information: |
|Contents of this agreement
The Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement provides for joint management of the Barmah National Park by:
- recording the government's commitment to establish a Traditional Owner Land Management Board at Barmah National Park. The Board is to be known as the Yorta Yorta Board.
- setting out a governance framework for the Board as well as principles for its operation.
- creating a negotiation framework for future agreements between the parties. This includes agreements to deal with the working relationship between the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the Victorian Government and building the capacity of the Yorta Yorta people to take on further joint management functions. Importantly, the agreement also provides for negotiation about the potential extension of joint management to areas outside of Barmah National Park.
Background to this agreement
Native title claims and agreement making in the agreement area
The agreement area covers part of the land the subject of the unsuccessful Yort Yorta native title claimant application (Federal Court File No: VID6001/95). The court in Yorta Yorta v Victoria  HCA 58 held that the Yorta Yorta had lost their 'connection' with the land as required by the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). In May 2004, two years after all the legal avenues to prove native title had been exhausted, the Yorta Yorta entered into a co-management agreement with the Victorian government's Department of Justice and the Department of Sustainability and Environment. The co-management agreement was based around land management of state parks. Details of this co-management agreement are available via the above links.
Developments leading to the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement
On 30 December 2008, the Victorian Government responded to the recommendations of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) which were handed down on 25 July 2008. The Brumby Government adopted VEACís recommendations to protect 95,000 hectares of the river red gum region along the Murray River through the creation of four national parks along the Murray, Goldburn and Ovens River. Significantly, the Victorian Government also proposed adopting VEAC's recommendation for a joint management agreement between itself and the Yorta Yorta and Wadi Wadi peoples of north-western Victoria. The Yorta Yorta people were to engage in joint management of the Barmah National Park whilst the Wadi Wadi People were to jointly manage the Nyah Vinifera park. The Premier's media release stated that "for the first time in the state's history, national park boards of management will be created with majority indigenous membership - at Barmah and Nyah-Vinefera." (The Premier of Victoria, 'New National Parks to Protect River Red Gum Heritage'). Pursuant to this commitment (but prior to the signing of the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement) Parks Victoria employed a number of the Yorta Yorta People as Barmah National Park Rangers (see Parks Victoria Anuual Report 2009/2010).
At this point, whilst an agreement has been finalised between the Yorta Yorta people and the the Victorian Government (represented by the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement), no such agreement has been finalised with the Wadi Wadi people.
Legislation relating to this agreement
This is an agreement pursuant to the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment (River Red Gums) Act 2009 (Vic), which complements the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic). The Barmah National Park was created in April 2010 pursuant to the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment (River Red Gums) Act 2009 (Vic). Under s 25 of the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment (River Red Gums) Act 2009 (Vic), the Government is empowered to enter into agreements with Traditional Owner Land Management Boards. The establishment of Traditional Owner Land Management Boards is governed by the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic).
Criticism of agreement
Originally, there had been pressure on the state government to return land to the Yorta Yorta people, so that areas such as the Barmah National Park could be leased to the Victorian government for a fee. As a consequence, some have criticized this agreement for representing a significant compromise for the Yorta Yorta People (see Yorta Yorta struggles for land justice and the Barmah National Park, 2010).|