Native title is the recognition in Australian law that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to hold rights and interests in land and water. Traditional Owners can seek determination of native title under the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth), or through an alternative process in Victoria through the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) (TOS Act). This allows the Victorian Government and Traditional Owner groups to make agreements that recognise traditional owners' relationship to land and provide them with certain rights on Crown land.
The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) provides input into these processes as the Crown land manager, including conducting tenure assessments to determine where native title exists on Crown land. DEECA works in partnership with Traditional Owner groups to ensure Traditional Owner rights are recognised in the sustainable management of public land, and in fulfilling the department’s commitments arising from native title determinations, TOS Act settlements or other agreements.
On 22 October 2010, the Federal Court recognised that the Gunaikurnai people hold native title over much of Gippsland. On the same day the Recognition and Settlement Agreement (RSA) between the Victorian Government and Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLAWC) commenced. The Gunaikurnai's agreement area extends from West Gippsland, near Warragul, east to the Snowy River and north to the Great Dividing Range. It also extends 200 metres offshore. The determination of native title under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) covers the same area.
The Gunaikurnai RSA was the first agreement to be reached under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act (2010). In the Gunaikurnai's updated RSA (October 2022), the State committed to the grant of Aboriginal title over four additional sites. In addition, the updated RSA committed the State to the transfer of the Forestec site (Kalimna West) and Kurnai Park site (Double Bridges) in freehold to GLAWAC.
The settlement included:
- Orders by the Federal Court recognising that the Gunaikurnai people hold native title in the settlement area.
- An agreement for some national parks and reserves to be granted as Aboriginal title to the Gunaikurnai to be jointly managed with the State.
- Rights for Gunaikurnai people to access and use Crown land for traditional purposes, including hunting, fishing, camping and gathering in accordance with existing laws.
- Funding for the Gunaikurnai to manage their affairs, including responding to their obligations under the settlement.
Gunaikurnai Traditional Owner Land Management Board
As part of the Gunaikurnai settlement agreement, the State entered into a Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement. This agreement establishes the Gunaikurnai Traditional Owner Land Management Board to jointly manage ten national parks and reserves in the agreement area.
Find out more about the Gunaikurnai Settlement Agreement on the Department of Justice and Regulations website.
The Victorian Government and the Yorta Yorta have entered into a Co-operative Management Agreement and Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement.
Yorta Yorta Co-operative Management Agreement
While the Yorta Yorta were found by the Federal Court not to meet the legal standard of native title under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), the State recognised that the Yorta Yorta have a connection to their Country. To acknowledge this, in 2004 the State entered into a Cooperative Management Agreement with the Yorta Yorta to facilitate greater cooperation between the Yorta Yorta and State in management of their Country.
The Yorta Yorta Co-operative Management Agreement was the first Victorian agreement reached outside the native title process and applies to designated areas of Crown land in Yorta Yorta country in north central Victoria. The State and the Yorta Yorta implement the objectives of this agreement via direct engagement between Yorta Yorta, Parks Victoria and DELWP.
Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement
In October 2010, the State entered into a Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement with the Yorta Yorta. This agreement establishes the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board to jointly manage Barmah National Park.
In October 2022 the Barengi Gadgin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BGLC), acting on behalf of the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk peoples (Wotjobaluk Peoples), signed a Recognition and Settlement Agreement (RSA) with the Victorian Government under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) (TOS Act). The finalisation of the RSA is a significant step in recognising the Wotjobaluk peoples and their ongoing connection to their Country. The foundation of the RSA is recognition of the Wotjobaluk People’s Traditional Owner rights in approximately 10,540 square kilometres (or 1,054,000 hectares) of public land.
The RSA builds on the Wotjobaluk Peoples’ existing native title recognition determined by the Federal Court in 2005 that found the Wotjobaluk People hold native title over approximately 398km2 (or 4 per cent) of the public land in their claim area. The RSA will advance self-determination for Wotjobaluk people by embedding Traditional Owners in government decision making and through systemic and structural changes in public land and natural resource management necessitated by the agreement. This will be particularly so for DEECA which will play a major role in supporting implementation of the settlement package.
On 30 March 2007 the Federal Court of Australia delivered a consent determination over almost 140,000 hectares across the southwest of Victoria, recognising the Gunditjmara People’s native title rights and interests across our traditional homelands and waters.
The consent determination area is bounded on the west by the Glenelg River, and to the north by the Wannon River. Gunditjmara native title covers national parks including the Lower Glenelg National Park, Mt Richmond National Park and Budj Bim National Park as well as Lake Condah and State Forests including Cobboboonee State Forest, Dunmore State Forest and Hotspur State Forest.
The Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (GMTOAC) is the representative body for the Gunditjmara People.
As part of the settlement, the State entered into a Co-operative Management Agreement covering Mt Eccles National Park in South West Victoria. The agreement establishes the Budj Bim Council, a land management council which provides advice and makes recommendations to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change about the management of Mt Eccles National Park.
As part of the settlement, the State also agreed to the freehold transfer of Lake Condah to GMTOAC.
In March 2013 the Victorian Government and the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DDWCAC), on behalf of the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owner group, entered into a Recognition and Settlement Agreement (RSA) under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 which recognises the Dja Dja Wurrung as the Traditional Owner group of approximately 266,532 hectares of public land in Central Victoria.
The Dja Dja Wurrung RSA relates to Crown lands and waters only within the external boundaries of the agreement area. Any existing interest, such as licences over Crown Land, are unaffected by the Agreement. Similarly the Agreement does not affect freehold land. The Dja Dja Wurrung Recognition and Settlement Agreement includes:
- The granting of Aboriginal title over two national parks, one regional park, two state parks and one reserve to the Dja Dja Wurrung, to be jointly managed with the State
- The transfer of two freehold properties of cultural significance at Carisbrook and Franklinford
- Funding to enable the Dja Dja Wurrung Corporation to meets its settlement obligations and 'seed capital' to enable economic development opportunities
- Rights for Dja Dja Wurrung people to hunt, fish and gather, in accordance with the terms and conditions specified in the 'Authorisation Orders' and where rules and regulations apply governing recreational access by the public
- A Land Use Activity Agreement which will provide the Corporation with an opportunity to provide input or give their agreement to certain activities taking place on Crown Land
Find out more about the Dja Dja Wurrung settlement.
Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board
As part of the Recognition and Settlement Agreement, the State entered into a Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement (TOLMA). This agreement establishes the Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board to jointly manage six parks and reserves in the agreement area.
Find out more about joint management.
Dja Dja Wurrung authorisation orders
At the time of entering into the agreement, the gazetted Authorisation Orders provided the authority and specified the terms and conditions for Dja Dja Wurrung people to hunt, fish and gather on Crown land for traditional purposes. In recent amendments to the Traditional Owner Settlement Act, authorisation orders have been replaced with the Natural Resource Agreement being the source of rights for traditional owners to undertake agreed activities on public land in the agreement area.
Find out more about the Dja Dja Wurrung authorisation orders:
- Introduction and overview to Dja Dja Wurrung members on Country Rights (PDF, 89.6 KB)
- Introduction and overview to Dja Dja Wurrung members on Country Rights (DOCX, 89.7 KB)
- Camping Rights (PDF, 90.8 KB)
- Camping Rights (DOCX, 91.4 KB)
- Hunting and Fishing (PDF, 135.8 KB)
- Hunting and Fishing (DOCX, 96.7 KB)
- Plants and Forest Products (DOCX, 99.8 KB)
- Protected Plant communities on Dja Dja Wurrung Country (DOCX, 85.3 KB)
- Water Rights (PDF, 133.3 KB)
- Water Rights (DOCX, 86.3 KB)
- Map of Protected Plant Communities in Dja Dja Wurrung Country (PDF, 4.7 MB)
- Map of Hunting and State Forests areas in Dja Dja Wurrung Country (PDF, 1.8 MB)
On 27 July 2011, the Federal Court of Australia determined that both the Traditional Owners represented by GMTOAC and the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation are the native title holders for the land and waters between the Shaw and Eumeralla Rivers from Deen Maar (including Yambuk) to Lake Linlithgow. Deen Maar (Lady Julia Percy Island) holds deep and significant cultural association for Traditional Owners.
The Recognition and Settlement Agreement (RSA) between the Victorian Government and Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLAWC), commenced on 11 August 2020. The settlement finalises the Taungurung's native title claims and aspirations. This significant milestone legally recognises the Taungurung people as the Traditional Owners of their Country (the agreement area) and their Traditional Owner rights on public land in their Country.
The Taungurung Recognition and Settlement Agreement includes:
- Recognition of Taungurung Peoples as the a Traditional Owners group of the agreement area based on their traditional and cultural associations to land
Traditional Owner rights in relation to access, ownership, management and decision making in relation to public land and natural resource management on public land.
Protocols for Acknowledgements and Welcomes to Country
Recognises Recognition of the Taungurung Peoples special association to the Goulburn River
Aboriginal title and joint management of nine parks and reserves in Taungurung Country.
Land Use Activity Agreement
Natural Resource Agreement
Traditional Owner Land Management Agreement.
Page last updated: 03/01/23