Indigenous Sandalwood Harvesting rights

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Sandalwood is a sacred tree for aboriginal people of Western Australia. The WA State Government have been mining this species of tree for the benefit of the government for 100 years. The departments DBCA aka DPAW aka CALM (they change their name every few years) have total control of harvesting wild sandalwood in WA. Most of the wood now sits in untouched desert areas in WA, on native title lands. The State Government through the Forest Products Commission (FPC) harvests 90% of an annual quota of over 2000 tonne every year, while only allowing 10% to be harvested by private and aboriginal people. 50% of this annual quota is dead sandalwood. The State Government and FPC directly competes with the private sector sandalwood business and the private sandalwood plantation industry. 

There are great opportunities for aboriginal people to have employment and income for their communities by a simple restructure of the harvest percentage. By reducing the harvest percentage to 50% to government and 50% to private would result in millions of dollars of income to struggling aboriginal communities in remote WA. There is currently no official legislation or law that dictates that the State should be allowed to harvest 90% of the annual harvest quota. Its a simple ministerial decision made annually that can be changed at any time. We need to give the rights of this tree species back to the traditional land owners.

Under Native Title legislation and Determination, many Native Title lands have the right to resources within their Native Title lands for ANY purpose including commercial purposes. Yet the state of Western Australia limits them to only 10% of the annual harvest of wild sandalwood. The current Biodiversity act, which governs wild harvest sandalwood, fails to address the rights to resources of Native title holders.

Whats more ridiculous, is that the Native Title holders have management plans in place, when the DBCA and FPC have no current sandalwood management plan in place.

The dead sandalwood in the annual quota is irrelevant to the sustainability of the species as it is DEAD. Indigenous communities should have the right to harvest as much dead sandalwood as they please, providing jobs and income to those willing to put in the work to collect this dead sandalwood. It is not a matter of sustainability, but a rather a fear of competition to the State if indigenous groups can legitimately harvest and sell dead sandalwood to the sandalwood markets   

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