Victorian Traditional Owners Settlements
Following the historic judgement in favour of Australia's original inhabitants in the Mabo case before the Australian High Court in 1992 and the passing of enabling legislation (the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993), there has been substantial and drawn-out litigation to establish individual native title claims in many parts of Australia.
The Government of Victoria sought to facilitate a faster resolution of native title claims in Victoria through its Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. That Act offers an alternative to costly litigation under the Commonwealth’s regime, by empowering Victorian Traditional Owner Groups to negotiate out-of-Court settlements directly with the Victorian Government.
This policy, supported by both ALP and Liberal/National Coalition governments, had its first success with the signing of a Recognition and Settlement Agreement between the State of Victoria and the Gunaikurnai People, based in Gippsland in Victoria's east, in October 2010.
As part of that Agreement, the State and the Gunaikurnai People signed a Participation Agreement in 2011 providing for the payment of a lump sum into the Victorian Traditional Owners Trust.
The Trust forms an important part of the settlement process as it provides an independent, secure and cost-effective option for the management of settlement funds.