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Martu people celebrate Federal Court land rights win

Giovanni Torre -

The Martu people of the Western Desert took another step on Thursday in their long battle for native title over their Traditional lands.

Martu celebrated as the Federal Court made its declaration on the Martu #3 native title claim.

Martu applicant Kennedy Finlay and Jamukurnu-Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation (JYAC) representatives were in the Federal Court to witness the determination.

The Martu #3 claim picks up a number of small to medium blocks along the western boundary of Martu ngurra (country).

The Western Australian government accepted that the Martu people are the right people for that claim area and agreed to a consent determination of native title.

The Wanajarra and Yina (Elders) Council and meetings of Martu common law holders have talked about getting all of Martu ngurra into the determination for many years.

Martu focus is now turning to Karlamilyi National Park – the largest national park in Western Australia and the subject of a protracted negotiation with the State Government.

Kennedy Finlay said: "We are very happy today that governments and the Court have agreed this land belongs to Martu."

"Our ancestors cared for this land, and then gave us the responsibility. We will use our native title rights to care for country and keep our culture strong."

Jamukurnu-Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Simon Frank said Western Desert lands are important for all Martu families.

"We have our culture and spirits in that ngurra," he said.

"Martu want to use the land properly – we will protect ngurra that must be kept safe and we will do mining and other business where that's agreed.

"The country is important to us for the culture, for the environment, and for economic opportunities. This has been our ngurra since before time."

Jamukurnu-Yapalikurnu Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Tony McRae said Martu exclusive possession native title rights put Martu "in a strong position to control access to their land".

"JYAC is the Trustee (land council) for Martu rights and we ensure any activities on country are done under binding agreements. This gives Martu control over country and gives land users the certainty they want to do business," he said.

"The JYAC Board has strong instructions from Martu to now focus on getting Karlamilyi back in Martu hands. Martu have waited more than 46 years to get this country back.

"Premier Charles Court declared that sacred part of Martu ngurra a national park without any consultation and Martu have been fighting to get it back ever since.

"It is a great injustice that must not be allowed to just drift along. Justice delayed is justice denied."

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