Aboriginal land Use

The NAR is the traditional land of two Aboriginal groups. Yamaji (also spelled Yamatji) people are the traditional owners of land and coastal waters in the northern part of the region, with the Noongar people to the south. More information.

Traditionally “Aboriginal people made extensive use of many native trees, shrubs, herbs and animals for both food and medicine, internally and externally” (Leyland, 2002). Many of the creation stories offer explanations for relationships that occur in nature. “Since the advent of European occupation however, the wealth of knowledge in the general Aboriginal population of this natural heritage has deteriorated rapidly, being retained mainly by the tribal elders and a small section of the older generation and their families.” (Leyland, 2002).

Despite the clearing of native bush for agriculture, urban and industrial development, Aboriginal people continue to source traditional food and medicines from remnant vegetation. However, the clearing of the land and the infestation of introduced plants and animals has meant many of the plants and animals traditionally used by Aboriginal people are scarce.

There is evidence of Noongar and Yamaji people occupying various parts of the coast for extensive periods of time. Stone artefacts have been found in caves in the Jurien Bay region, and the area between Greenhead and Jurien Bay has the largest number of midden deposits in the south-west of Western Australia. Coastal dunes throughout the region were also used as burial sites, and skeletal remains have been exposed by dune blowouts. The mouths of rivers and estuaries tend to be particularly significant, especially Bowes River. Changes in tenure, management and development in the coastal zone needs to protect the environmental, cultural, spiritual and historic values of these areas.

The Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) was established by the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972. Its primary function is to acquire and hold land and to use and manage that land for the benefit of Aboriginal people in accordance with their wishes.

The Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) are the native title representative bodies for the traditional owners of the region.

There are currently no Native Title determinations registered in the NAR area. However, a number of claims have been made. The locations of those claims can be viewed in the Registered native title applications map below.

For more information on Native Title and associated legislation, visit the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) webpage.

Registered Aboriginal heritage sites are protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. Many aboriginal heritage sites are related to coastal, biodiversity and water resource values of particular areas and sites. Under section 17 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, a person who excavates, destroys, damages, conceals or in any way alters any Aboriginal site commits an offence. It is also an offence to alter, damage, remove, destroy, conceal, deal with, or assume possession of any object on, or under, a site.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs maintains the Aboriginal Heritage Sites Register in Western Australia, noting a number of Aboriginal sites across the region.

Landowners are able to apply to the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee to consider applications under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 to use land on which Aboriginal sites or objects are located, who will make a recommendation to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on whether consent should be given to the use of the land for the purpose sought. Aboriginal Heritage Sites and locations can be viewed on the Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System.

It should be recognised that a search of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs database does not comprise of a full assessment under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, 1972.

Where a previously unsurveyed area is proposed to be developed, it is recommended that consultation is undertaken with Aboriginal people with knowledge of the area, together with an archaeological survey, to determine whether the proposed development area contains any previously unrecorded archaeological sites.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is also responsible for administering the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 which provides for the establishment of the Aboriginal Lands Trust. The Aboriginal Lands Trust advises the Minister for Indigenous Affairs on issues relating to the Aboriginal Lands Trust estate.

Search the Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System

Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System

Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System – click on the image to view interactive map

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