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 almost 100 years. The departments DBCA aka DPAW aka CALM regulate 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 property owners and aboriginal people on Native Title.

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 (FPC) and 50% to private / Native title would result in millions of dollars of income to struggling aboriginal communities in remote WA. There is currently no legislation that dictates that the State run FPC should be allowed to harvest 90% of the annual harvest quota. We need to give the rights of this tree species back to the traditional land owners.

Under Exclusive Possession Native Title Determination 2016, 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 regulates wild harvest sandalwood, fails to address the rights to resources of Native title holders. Native Title occupants have as much right, if not more right, to wild sandalwood than the FPC. Native Title rights are being denied. 

Policy dictates 90% to be harvested from Crown Land and 10% from Private land. Native title exists on Crown Land, yet DBCA categorise Native Title to be "private land" for harvest license regulations. 

Immediate change to the current policy will result in a win for Aboriginal communities and a win for the State Government. There is no better opportunity in the current landscape of Aboriginal affairs that provides a fair and equitable resource allocation with such potential positive outcomes.