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Editions

Dispute over land ownership

03 Mar 2016

Who are the traditional landowners of Docklands?

That’s the question authorities are grappling with due to competing claims from two Aboriginal groups.

Both the Boon Wurrung Foundation and the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council claim that they are the traditional landowners of a region including Docklands.

Currently there is no formal recognition of the traditional owners of the Docklands area. It’s understood official speeches made in the area acknowledge only the overarching Kulin nation, rather than a specific group.

Both groups have made submissions to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (VAHC) applying to be named the Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) for the land, but both requests have so far been denied.

The VAHC is responsible for appointing RAPs, which represent traditional owners and make decisions relating to the protection, management and preservation of Aboriginal culture in specified areas.

According to a VAHC spokesperson, the council is currently of the view that more discussion is needed between the groups to identify how their interests should be understood.

The council has previously recognised the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council as a RAP of much of inner Melbourne and a large section of Victoria.

The group is considered the traditional landowners of the land extending to our north of the Great Dividing Range, west to around Daylesford and east to Mount Baw Baw.

It’s most recent application related to a section of land south of its existing RAP area from Werribee River in the west, along the Port Phillip Bay coastline, extending south almost to Frankston and beyond the Bunyip River in the east.

VAHC denied this application on a number of grounds including overlapping claims from other traditional owner organisations.

According to the council’s September 2015 report on the decision, the VAHC is aware of claims made on behalf of the Boon Wurrung people by the Boon Wurrung Foundation, the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation andthe Bunurong Land and Sea Association Incorporated.

However, the group is supported in its claim relating to Docklands by National Titles Services Victoria (NTSV), which works to assist traditional owners with land rights claims.

“Following comprehensive research by NTSV we are supporting Wurundjeri in applications under the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the Traditional Owner Settlement Act over an area that would include Docklands and some other southern metropolitan areas not currently included in their existing RAP area,” NTSV CEO Matthew Storey said.

The Boon Wurrung Foundation is not currently a RAP, with the VAHC declining its application relating to an area encompassing the coastline of the Werribee River to Wilsons Promontory National Park, most of Port Phillip Bay, Western Port Bay, Cape Liptrap and all of the Mornington Peninsula.

In its May 2015 report on the decision the VAHC said parts of the application overlapped with RAP applications from other organisations including the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council. At that time the council said it had not formed a view about the competing applications for the areas.

Docklands News contacted both the Boon Wurrung Foundation and the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council in relation to this story. Neither party was available to comment.

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