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Mining deal opens new chapter for Martu

March 8, 2016 Blog, News no comments

My name is Doris Eaton, I am from the Pitjakarli tribe and I speak Nygangumarta.

Last week Martu from the western desert stood alongside Newcrest staff at Irramindi (Telfer) to announce an agreement that will benefit our people for many years.

The agreement will contribute $14m to an independent trust to fund community development, education and health initiatives whilst also providing financial certainty to our Prescribed Body Corporate, Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation (WDLAC), to manage our native title.

Most importantly, the deal puts Martu in a strong position to capture employment and contracting opportunities at Telfer.

Newcrest have walked alongside Martu on this journey, and we’re proud to have a deal with a company who respects Martu culture and our aspirations to have a meaningful stake in the Pilbara economy. 

Getting to this position has not been easy.

WDLAC, our peak body, has endured a long period of corporate instability marked by serious governance issues.

In the past six months the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) has worked with Martu to fix up WDLAC. As of this week, we have six new Martu directors, a highly-qualified independent director and changes to our rule book that improve our organisation’s transparency.

Martu have also engaged a professional, independent Trust (Myer Co) to manage monies from this agreement.

Like all large groups, some Martu think we should not engage with mining companies. Some people think the mining benefits should be paid directly to separate family groups.

I won’t be drawn into a public slanging match about the merits or otherwise of such propositions, instead I choose to focus on the future and the many positive stories my people are talking about.

Like the example of Daniel Toby, a Warralong man who has worked on site at Telfer for more than five years. It brought me great pride to see Daniel at the ceremony last week and to hear that he now mentors young Martu employees through the challenging transition to work.

This is an emerging story for many young Martu, a willingness to pursue secondary education and work opportunities on mine sites, particularly those close to home.

I look forward to sharing many more stories like Daniel’s, and to continue to celebrate Martu success.

Doris Eaton is a senior Pitjakarli Elder, Co-Chairwoman of Yamitji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation and sat on the WDLAC Advisory Committee for the past six months. In 2009 Doris was awarded NAIDOC’s Female Elder of the Year award.

This article first appeared in the National Indigenous Times:
Click here to read article at

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WDLAC Back In Martu Hands

February 29, 2016 Blog no comments

The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Anthony Beven, today announced the end of the special administration at the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation (Jamukurnu-Yapalikunu) RNTBC (WDLAC).

WDLAC holds and manages the native title rights and interests of the Martu people, including exclusive use, occupation, possession and control of 136,000 square kilometres in the central western desert region of Western Australia.

In July 2015 Jack James and Paula Cowan from the Perth-based firm of Palisade Business Consulting were appointed by the Registrar as special administrators after an examination revealed concerns about WDLAC’s governance standards and financial performance.

‘WDLAC is an important native title corporation delivering cultural, social and economic benefits for the Martu people,’ said Mr Beven. ‘But from July 2013 it was experiencing difficulties that it could not resolve on its own.
‘This has been a particularly successful special administration. In just seven months the special administrators, in close consultation with the members, have managed to turn WDLAC’s fortunes around and set it on a firm and steady course for the futrure.’

The special administrators have:

• significantly reduced WDLAC’s operating costs and returned it to profitability. In the 2013–14 financial year WDLAC incurred a $1.8 million loss followed by a $2.4 million loss in 2014–15. In a significant turnaround WDLAC recorded an operating surplus of $348,044 in the first half of the 2015–16 financial year while under special administration;

• concluded and registered an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Newcrest Mining Limited which will provide the Martu people with $18 million and employment and business opportunities over the next six years. The ILUA had been under negotiation for eight years;

• established arrangements for an independent trustee to manage approximately 75 per cent of the funds received under the Newcrest ILUA;

• re-established the trust of the traditional owners and Martu communities in WDLAC and rebuilt relationships with WDLAC’s major stakeholders;

• reviewed WDLAC’s operations and disposed of unprofitable business ventures;

• introduced innovative new management and service arrangements for WDLAC. From 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2015 WDLAC incurred costs of $4,721,145 for a CEO, chief financial officer and legal services. The special administrators have engaged the services of a native title representative body, Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, to provide management, administration, accounting and legal services to WDLAC at one tenth of the cost of the previous arrangements;

• redirected savings from the reduction in administration and management costs to create a new liaison officer position in the community of Parngurr for a Martu person;

• reviewed and made several important changes to the corporation’s rule book, including embedding improved reporting to members and directors; and,

• appointed a smaller board of new directors, including in a first for WDLAC, an independent director.

The new member directors are representatives of the six areas of country within the Martu determination area—Karlamyingurrara, Ngayunanalku, Pilakaja, Pitijikarli, Rirrakaja and Walakaja. They are:
o James Berringal
o Kennedy Finlay
o Kerry Kelly
o Lindsay Robinson
o Desmond Taylor
o Kenny Thomas

The independent specialist director appointed by the special administrators is Joe Fardin, who holds a Master of Laws and is currently enrolled in a PhD course researching mining agreements with Indigenous groups. Mr Fardin has had a career in the native title and mining sectors since 2004.

‘The WDLAC of today is unrecognisable from the WDLAC of just seven months ago,’ said Mr Beven. ‘I would like to congratulate the special administrators, Jack James and Paula Cowan, for transforming WDLAC. It is now in a strong position to protect the native title rights and interests of the Martu people and deliver better outcomes.’
The Registrar will monitor the corporation closely over the next 12 months and will provide corporate governance training to the new directors in coming months.

AGM Notice


November 2, 2015 Blog no comments

Please find below a link to the WDLAC AGM notice, proxy form and explanatory statement.

Please distribute to your networks and display prominently for the benefit of Martu community members.

Click here

notice of info session


October 26, 2015 Blog no comments

We are holding an information meeting about the special administration. All members of the corporation and interested parties are invited to attend.

WHEN: Thursday, 5 November 2015
WHERE: Parnngurr Community

Download link to full notice: click here

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