On 5 October 2010 the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 commenced operation. In his Second Reading Speech Premier John Brumby noted some of the shortcomings of the native title process in Victoria, and that it was time “to seize a new opportunity -- and find a new way -- that works for Victoria, a new way that delivers the practical and symbolic recognition of traditional owners' rights in Crown lands, and a new way that provides certainty to land managers, to industry and to developers.”
The Traditional Owner Settlement Act seeks to create a framework for agreements between traditional owners and the State to resolve issues which may otherwise be dealt with through native title claims. The Premier noted that the “Bill's approach is to put the question of native title to one side in exchange for recognition and a range of benefits related to that recognition.”
The Traditional Owner Settlement Act is legislation to provide for a framework for negotiation of settlement of native title claims and traditional owner aspirations. It provides for Regional Settlement Agreements which may deliver one or more of the following:
• Recognition of Traditional Rights for certain purposes;
• Land Agreements – which provide for the transfer of agreed lands either conditionally, unconditional or subject to management agreements;
• Land Use Activity Agreements – which provide for agreements in relation to activities on Crown land similar to that provided for under the future act regime of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)(‘NTA’);
• Land Management Agreements;
• Funding Agreements;
• Natural Resource Agreements.
Regional Settlement Agreements are likely to be entered into in conjunction with Indigenous Land Use Agreements to ensure that native title issues are resolved with some finality.
Importantly, the Traditional Owner Settlement Act does not prescribe any outcome. It only provides a framework for negotiations to occur and guidance on what those outcomes may involve. Outcomes still need to be negotiated on a case by case basis.
Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010: http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubStatbook.nsf/f932b66241ecf1b7ca256e92000e23be/7718a865b4a91ad0ca2577a5001da3d1!OpenDocument
Department of Justice (Victoria) – Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (FAQS): http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/justlib/doj+internet/home/your+rights/indigenous+victorians/native+title/justice+-+traditional+owner+settlement+act+2010+faqs