A settlement agreement between the Victorian Coalition Government and representatives of the Dja Dja Wurrung people for approximately 266,500 hectares of Crown Land in central Victoria has officially commenced.
Representatives from the Dja Dja Wurrung Corporation, the Victorian Government and the Governor of Victoria took part in a ceremony to mark the historic event in Bendigo.
Attorney General Robert Clark said the landmark settlement was the first completed in Victoria without any determination of native title by the courts.
“This agreement is testament to the spirit of cooperation and positivity from both the Dja Dja Wurrung people and the Victorian Government,” Mr Clark said.
“The agreement formally recognises the Dja Dja Wurrung as the traditional owners of this land and provides a framework for their ongoing role in managing these Crown Lands.”
The Dja Dja Wurrung native title settlement includes areas of the Loddon Mallee and Central Goldfields regions of Victoria.
The agreement applies to Crown land in the area and includes provisions for the joint management of six parks and reserves and the transfer of historically and culturally significant land at Franklinford and Carisbrook.
Graham Atkinson, Chairperson of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation said it was a proud day for the Dja Dja Wurrung People.
“Our place in our landscape and its history are formally acknowledged with the legal recognition that we are the Traditional Owners of our Country,” Mr Atkinson said.
“We will now have a say in the management of our Country and be able to protect our heritage for all future generations.
“Today signals the start of a new future for the Dja Dja Wurrung and a new permanent relationship with the State and people of Victoria.”
The Governor of Victoria, Alex Chernov, said he was honoured to officiate on the historic day, symbolically passing soil into the hands of Mr Atkinson, to represent the transfer of land.“The finalisation of this settlement agreement is a watershed moment in the ongoing relationship between the Dja Dja Wurrung people, the Victorian Government, and the local community. I commend all involved in the agreement for their goodwill and effort in seeing this project through to completion,” Mr Chernov said.
The Victorian Government has contributed $9.65 million as part of the settlement package, which is designed to promote economic opportunity.
The settlement agreement also recognises the importance of relationships between the Dja Dja Wurrung and local councils and provides for these to be strengthened.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Jeanette Powell said the agreement would provide economic opportunities for Dja Dja Wurrung people while ensuring an ongoing connection to their ancestral land.
“This agreement is consistent with the government’s Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework and our commitment to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to develop sustainable futures, increase access to land and reach native title settlements,” Mrs Powell said.
“We have now paved the way for joint management of six national parks and reserves.
“The settlement agreement is a very positive outcome for all Victorians.”
As part of the agreement, the Dja Dja Wurrung people have agreed to withdraw existing native title claims and for no further claims to be made under the Commonwealth Native Title Act.
The Attorney-General also welcomed the financial contribution towards the settlement package made by the Commonwealth Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC).
“The Dja Dja Wurrung settlement is the first to include a contribution from the ILC under its new policy to assist governments and native title groups to reach settlements,” Mr Clark said.
“We look forward to further contributions from the ILC and other Commonwealth agencies as we progress settlements in other parts of Victora.”