Victoria cut traditional owner groups from $2b windfall

Royalties agreements were intentionally set up to exclude Aboriginal people in Victorian from their cut of more than $1 billion in land use revenue, an inquiry has heard.

State Environment Minister Steve Dimopoulos told the Yoorrook Justice Commission he believed not one cent of $1.89 billion in forestry and grazing licence revenue since 2010 had gone to traditional owners despite mechanisms to distribute royalties.

"As I understand it, none," Mr Dimopoulos told the inquiry on Tuesday.

Forestry and grazing license revenue
Forestry and grazing license revenue had not gone to traditional owners, the inquiry heard.

In the case of forestry agreements, and the $1.39 billion in timber revenue grossed for state coffers since 2010, the exclusion had been intentional, he added.

"The official answer is because it never met the threshold," Mr Dimopoulos said.

"But the real answer is the threshold was set in a way to exclude traditional owners - that's the reality."

The five forest agreements were inked between 1997 and 2000 and will be scrapped at the end of the year.

Asked what the government intended to do, Mr Dimopoulos said revenues flowing to the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action went straight into consolidated revenue.

"I can't at all redirect that money myself," he said.

"That's an appropriate conversation for the whole of government in terms of revenue sources to traditional owners."

Inquiry commissioner Maggie Walter asked whether high-level frameworks and policies could be trusted to deliver better outcomes for Indigenous Victorians.

Maggie Walter during a hearing in late 2022.
Maggie Walter asked the minister what the government was going to do about the injustice.

"The failure to distribute any funds that have come from those lands to First Peoples doesn't indicate to me that there has been a significant shift in attitude," Ms Walter said. 

"Good words, but no follow through."

Yoorrook is creating an official public record on the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people in Victoria and will recommend actions to address historical and ongoing injustices as well as inform the state's treaty negotiations.

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