A NATIVE title claim lodged by the Eastern Maar people seeks a three hundred-fold increase in their territory in the south-west.
The claim by the traditional owners from the eastern domain of the Maar nation covers 12,286 square kilometres, or about five per cent of Victoria.
It encompasses the Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Great Ocean Road areas and extends as far north as Ararat. It also stretches 100 metres out to sea from low tide and includes the iconic Twelve Apostles.
Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation spokesman Jeremy Clark of Halls Gap said the Eastern Maar people comprised those who could trace their family ancestry back to clans and language groups in the area being claimed. He said identifying the traditional owners had been “an exhaustive process” but most Aboriginal families in the Warrnambool district were members of the Eastern Maar people.
“The general public has nothing to fear from this claim,” Mr Clark said.
“Just the opposite. They can rest assured that the traditional owners will be caring for the country so that it can be enjoyed by current and future generations.”
The native title claim affects only Crown land and excludes all freehold land including houses, roads and agricultural leases.
Residents and tourists will still have the same rights to access parks and reserves.
The National Native Title Tribunal said that in cases where there was a conflict of land usage, legislation always gave priority to the rights of the non-native titleholders.
The Eastern Maar people’s claim was yesterday approved as a registered claim by the National Native Title Tribunal, entitling them to the immediate right to negotiate with developers about activities that might impact on their claimed rights and interests.
The claim is the start of a long process and is open to challenge from other Aboriginal people.
The Eastern Maar and Gunditjmara peoples were recognised in 2011 as the native titleholders for 41.5 square kilometres between the Shaw and Eumerella Rivers and from Yambuk in the south to beyond Lake Linlithgow, near Hamilton, in the north.
That claim took about 13 years to settle and included two years of negotiations between the two peoples.
The latest claim seeks rights for Eastern Maar people to access and use Crown land for traditional purposes including protecting sacred sites, holding ceremonies, hunting, fishing and camping in accordance with existing laws.
It also seeks rights to be consulted on the management or development of Crown land.
The Eastern Maar people are also seeking joint management rights over sections of the 41 parks and reserves in the claim area, including Great Otway National Park and Port Campbell National Park, and have lodged an application under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010.
Mr Clark said the Eastern Maar people hoped a resolution of their claim would create new jobs and economic opportunities for them through tourism and cultural heritage enterprise partnerships with government agencies.