Wednesday 21st August 2002
Attention: NEWSDESK

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (Vic) has called upon the Victorian Government to pursue negotiated solutions to outstanding native title claims in Victoria following the High Court's decisions in the Miriuwung-Gajerrong and NSW Western Division Leases cases.

"The best interests of reconciliation and justice for indigenous Australians are being undermined by the present restrictive and discriminatory native title regime", said Peter Lewis, Chairperson of ANTaR (Vic). "Native title claimants are being left with no option but to pursue their rights through expensive and protracted litigation in the courts, often leading to more disappointment, hurt and disillusionment."

“The Yorta Yorta native title claim is a prime example”, Mr Lewis pointed out.

“The Victorian Government, in accordance with a resolution passed at the recent State ALP Conference, and in the spirit of reconciliation, should immediately withdraw its legal opposition to the Yorta Yorta High Court appeal, and work together with the Yorta Yorta to achieve a just outcome.”

"It is vital that the Victorian Government leads the way in seeking negotiated solutions which recognise a co-existence of interests, fostering good will and co-operation between indigenous people and local communities, to secure outcomes which properly acknowledge and respect the ongoing connections to traditional country, customs and culture. Victoria should celebrate its Aboriginal heritage", he said.

"A public education campaign should be undertaken by the Victorian Government to overcome concerns within local communities which view native title as threatening. This would help communities understand each other's perspectives and come to terms with the consequences of past dispossession."

"As well as the Yorta Yorta case, native title claims by the Gunai/Kurnai in Gippsland, the Gournditch-Mara in the Western District and the Yupagalk-Wotjobaluk in western Victoria provide the Premier, Steve Bracks and his Government with opportunities to demonstrate real political leadership and to reaffirm their commitment towards genuine reconciliation by delivering fair and just outcomes for those communities.
ANTaR (Vic) will be monitoring those claims with interest."

For comment please contact Peter Lewis on mobile no.0417 529 142 or Sid Spindler on 9859 5607.