On 1 January 1994 the Native Title Act 1993 (Clth) came into force in Australia. It provided for recognition of Native Title and a claims process regulated by the National Native Title Tribunal. It also provided processes for the Resources Industry to interact with Native Title Claim groups.
On 14 November 1995, a Native Title Claim was lodged over land which now comprises both the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara and the Yankunytjatjara Native Title Determination areas. With the assistance of Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, the Native Title representative body for South Australia at the time, a series of community meetings resulted in the emergence of two adjoining Native Title Claims, at the time called the Antakirinja Mutuntjara Land Management Native Title Claim and the Yankunytjatara/Antakirinja Native Title Claim.
Ultimately both claims successfully achieved Determinations of Native Title in the Federal Court of Australia. Both claims also established Aboriginal Corporations to manage the Native Title rights and interests on behalf of their respective Native Title holders and both underwent slight name changes.
Antakirinja Mutuntjara Land Management Incorporated became Antakirinja Land Management Aboriginal Corporation (ALMAC) and then finally Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal Corporation (AMYAC).
Yankunytjatara/Antakirinja Native Title Claim group became the Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (YNTAC).
The claims process was complicated and drawn out for both groups. YNTAC was successful in receiving Native Title in August 2006, with AMYAC’s Native Title being granted in May 2011. The AM-Y claim was made on behalf of all of the Native Title holders for the AM-Y Native Title area by Bill Lennon Snr, Ian Crombie, David Brown, Joseph Lennon Snr, Keith Smith and Jean Wood, whom were all authorised by a large meeting of potential Native Title holders to make the Claim. They were, until the Determination of Native Title, supported by 9 other members of the Claim Group, who together with the named Claimants became the Directors of ALMAC and then AMYAC.
The Claimants had a number of complexities to deal with, namely 20 Pastoral Lessees, the District Council of Coober Pedy, 2 Opal Miners Associations, National Parks, Defence and the State Government, in addition to a large number of companies involved in the Resources Industry.
With the assistance of the National Native Title Tribunal and its presiding members and staff, AMYAC has been able to make a number of key agreements with many of the stakeholders in the region, including in relation to 16 Pastoral Leases; Tallaringa Conservation Park; and the Breakaways, an iconic area of natural beauty.
More recently, the State and AMYAC have made an Agreement in relation to the Coober Pedy Precious Stones Field and are in the process of negotiating a “Whole of Claim” Agreement, which will see all of the issues related to the Coober Pedy township and other sundry matters resolved.
Many agreements have been made directly by AMYAC with the resources industry for both mineral and petroleum exploration and production, as well as in relation to the Coober Pedy Hybrid Renewable Energy Project.
With the Determination of Native Title, the special role of the named Claimants came to an end in May 2011 and the responsibility for managing the Native Title rights and interests of the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara Native Title holders fell to the board of AMYAC, the Directors being elected at Annual General Meetings in accordance with the AMYAC Rule Book.
In many respects, the journey for AMYAC and its Members has just begun.