Set to deliver nearly half a billion dollars to Western Australia’s Yamatji community, the Yamatji Nation Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) has officially taken effect.

The period for judicial review expired with no outstanding legal challenges, meaning the funding from the State Government which will support key initiatives from the ILUA will become available to Traditional Owners in 2020-21.

Pending the establishment of the Yamatji Trust, the first $14.5 million instalment will assist in creating infrastructure for the new Yamatji Southern Regional Corporation (YSRC), including buying property to house the Corporation in Geraldton.

The money will also support tourism development in the region, employment of Yamatji Rangers, creation of the Yamatji Conservation Estate and investigations for the Strategic Aboriginal Water Reserve.

The Yamatji Nation Native Title determination is also now in effect.

To celebrate the historic moment, Yamatji Traditional Owners and WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt gathered for an event at WA Parliament House last Friday.

In his opening remarks Minister Wyatt said the Yamatji ILUA was “nation-leading” and that the YSRC was now at “the start of a new journey”.

Speaking about the journey through negotiations to now, the Minister was there was a “fierce desire across the Yamatji community to unite behind an agreement”.

Minister Ben Wyatt speaking at the WA Parliament House event. Photo by Hannah Cross.

He said the Yamatji Nation is now “well on their way” to achieving self-determination and economic independence.

“The WA Government will work in close partnership with the Yamatji people to ensure that they are able to realise the maximum benefit from this agreement.”

Chair of the YSRC, lobbyist and former WA Member of Parliament, Carol Martin, said the agreement will deliver unprecedented advantage to the Yamatji people.

“We’ve done things in our ILUA that have never been done before, we’ve got water rights in the region, we’ve got part of a mining revenue … for the region,” Martin said.

“We’ve made a determination within our group that we won’t be selling any land, we will be leasing land, but we won’t be selling it.”

Carol Martin, Minister Ben Wyatt and Fred Taylor. Photo by Hannah Cross.

The economic opportunity associated with the ILUA is huge; the agreement covers almost 48,000 square kilometres of land in WA’s Mid West. Martin said the social opportunity is much more significant.

“We’ve also got a huge housing estate as well in … different areas … over 80 houses,” she said.

“I know people look at the monetary value but that’s nothing in comparison to the other assets.”

Martin said YSRC won’t have any welfare components to it and will operate purely as an economic entity.

A business development unit within the Corporation will also help community members attract funds from the relevant agencies.

“We will be helping our people set up their own businesses,” Martin said.

“This whole agreement is the vehicle to deal with poverty in our community because we believe economic participation and employment is how you alleviate poverty.”

By Hannah Cross