Recognition helps with Native Title

THE WA Government and opposition should stop trying to score points in the Native Title debate and find solutions to fast track ex-ploration agreements and productive mining, says Richard O’Shan-nassy & Co solicitor and native title mediator Marcus Holmes.

“Legislative bills are not the answer,” Mr Holmes said.

“It would be productive if the state made a commitment to recognise Aboriginal links to the land.

“Aboriginal groups want to be consulted as a basic sign of respect. They want empowerment and common courtesy extended. Often it is as simple as that.”

Rio Tinto general manager of group external affairs Bruce Larson said forming solid relationships with Aboriginal communities was extremely important.

“Clear communication can fast track the processes of the Act and achieve results that are agreeable to all,” Mr Larson said.

“The recent memorandum of understanding between our company, the Kimberley Land Council and major exploration companies shows that we are finding ways to work with existing legislation.”

Mr Holmes said the state’s proposal in its Native Title Bill to replace the quote “right to negotiate” with a consultation regime between miners and claimants was not a panacea for the problem.

“The definition of ‘consultation’ could lead to test cases and more uncertainty,” he said.

Mr Holmes said the use of common business etiquette would make a difference in negotiations.

“Rather than sending junior staff to talk to these groups, it would be a sign of respect to their culture if directors able to bind their companies were to attend,” he said.

“Some claim groups come to the negotiating table with spokespeople who can represent the broader claimant group as a whole and can make decisions on the spot.

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