SOUTH-WEST Victorian Aboriginal families will take another step next month towards gaining native title over Crown land in a large slice of the region encompassing Warrnambool, Port Fairy and the Great Ocean Road.
Indigenous residents of the area and descendants of early community leaders have been invited to a meeting in Warrnambool on August 8 to authorise a threshold statement for the claim by the Eastern Maar people.
It follows lodgement of a native title claim in the federal court last year and approval by the National Native Title Tribunal.
Since then negotiations began with the Victorian government for a settlement deal to avoid a long and costly court process.
The claim area extends along the coast from Anglesea to Yambuk and north to Ararat, skirting east of Camperdown and near Penshurst.
It includes the Twelve Apostles and 41 other parks and reserves and stretches 100 metres out to sea from low tide.
According to Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation spokesman Jeremy Clark, it is hoped to have a state settlement within two years.
Eastern Maar people previously gained basic federal native title rights, along with Gunditjmara people, to fish, hunt and camp, plus negotiate with mining companies in the area between the Shaw and Eumeralla rivers.
Mr Clark said state approval would provide opportunities for indigenous communities to embark on business and employment ventures on Crown land and have a role in managing national parks.
Freehold land including houses, roads, hospitals and schools will not be affected, along with agricultural leases.
“Tourism is an obvious opportunity for us to have business ventures, but there’s also a bigger picture for investment, including possible joint ventures with local business people,” he said. “There could be job creation opportunities in land care, water authorities, parks and contracting teams.
“Our Eastern Maar people have been discussing native title for the last 25 years or so and now its starting to take shape.”
He said there had already been extensive work on determining eligible claimants, including those with a blood connection to the area, those who had been accepted as part of the Eastern Maar society and those descended from early families.
“This meeting on August 8 is to help finalise our native title claim with the state,” Mr Clark said.
“Most of the people involved are familiar with where it’s at.”
Native Title Services Victoria has organised the meeting at the Mid City Motel between noon and 4pm.
“All people who hold or may hold native title rights and interests in the area of the proposed settlement area are invited to attend the meeting,” the department said.