A DEAL in the Kimberley represents a significant acquisition for the indigenous-owned Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation (WAC).
After four years of negotiations, the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) has divested Myroodah station, along the Fitzroy River near Looma, to WAC.
The property is valued at about $15 million including $3m of improvements.
WAC will sublease the 402,000 hectare property to the Kimberley Agriculture and Pastoral Company (KAPCO).
KAPCO paid just above $11.5m for about 17,000 head of Brahman cattle from the ILC, which are run on the property.
As the key economic, political and social body for the Nyikina Mangala people, WAC is a shareholder of KAPCO and overseas about 2,621,500ha of exclusive and non-exclusive possession native title, comprising many interests, including in the agricultural and mining industries.
KAPCO consists of three indigenous-owned pastoral stations in WA’s top end, including Mt Anderson, Frazier Downs and Bohemia Downs and including Myroodah, its portfolio spans more than 700,000ha.
KAPCO chairman Wayne Bergmann said Myroodah station would become part of the company’s existing integrated enterprise.
“With the four properties working together, we believe we can achieve the economies of scale we require for a successful cattle enterprise,” Mr Bergmann said.
“This business represents an enormous opportunity for our people in terms of meaningful employment and training and we believe it will secure our economic future for generations.
“We hope that in time, we will see the flow-on effects in terms of social outcomes and micro business opportunities.”
Mr Bergmann said the transfer of Myroodah station was imperative for KAPCO as the other three, smaller properties it runs had infrastructure that was mostly un-operational.
The other three properties which are managed by KAPCO are not commercially operated, running about 5000 head.
Mr Bergmann said Myroodah will enable the group to scale up operations and eventually produce for the commercial market which will help stimulate the local economy.
“The acquisition of Myroodah and the purchase of the existing stock was so important in increasing our capability and revenue to build up our enterprise,” he said.
This is a monumental event for the Nyikina Mangala people of the West Kimberley as the deal will mean they have control over one of the largest pastoral leases in the Kimberley and the largest indigenous-owned pastoral lease in the region.
WAC chairman Robert Watson said the transfer of the pastoral lease from the ILC was a landmark occasion for the local Aboriginal people who had a strong relationship with the land.
“Our people have a long history with Myroodah station, with our ancestors being born, working and even being buried on the station,” Mr Watson said.
“We are immensely proud of the hard work it’s taken to get to this point and we are excited about the future opportunities this provides for our people.”
The ILC obtained the station at the group’s request in 1999 for $2.34m, with the intention of improving the property before handing it back to the traditional owners.
The process to transfer the pastoral lease to the WAC, which is the native title body corporate for the Nyikina Mangala people, began in 2014 after the determination of the group’s native title.
Myroodah station was transferred from the ILC at no cost to WAC and the ILC will grant the group an additional $657,000 in operational, plant and equipment, coupled with land management funds of $1m for the future development, protection and maintenance of the property.
ILC chief executive officer John Maher said it is the organisation’s mandate to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to acquire land and provide support in managing their financial, social, cultural and environmental benefits.
“The transfer of Myroodah is an excellent example of the ILC working with Aboriginal people to unlock the potential of indigenous-held land across the country, otherwise known as the Indigenous Estate,” Mr Maher said.
“As well as economic benefits, an environmental management plan has been developed for the property in partnership with the Nyikina Mangala rangers which will ensure cultural and environmental assets are protected.”
Myroodah station had been operated as a going concern by the ILC, delivering training, employment and environmental benefits.
Since the 2009 employment and training program started on the property, it has hosted 234 indigenous training participants and recorded 143 training completions.
The station has provided employment for 85 indigenous people, including 17 graduates from the program, since it was acquired by the ILC.
The transfer is set to further increase the economic, training and employment opportunities for the local Aboriginal communities.
Mr Bergmann said it was KAPCO’s vision to build its portfolio up to the level of big corporate players in the beef industry and being owned, and operated by Aboriginal people with the aim of increasing opportunities for its workers and the community, KAPCO is vastly different from many of its more commercially-driven competitors.
With Myroodah station now part of its four-station enterprise, KAPCO is on the path to achieve just that.
“We want to create opportunities for people so they don’t have to think there are no opportunities in life,” Mr Bergmann said.