The Yinggarda, Baiyungu and Thalanyji people this week achieved Native Title recognition, 22 years after their initial claim was lodged.
The Gnulli Native Title claim area covers 71,354 square kilometres of land and sea in the Yamatji Region in the shires of Ashburton, Carnarvon, Exmouth, Upper Gascoyne, Murchison and Shark Bay.
The determination area spans over several pastoral leases, mining tenements, roads and reserves as well as portions of the Kennedy Range and Cape Range National Parks, the Ningaloo Marine Park, Lake MacLeod, and waters in the Exmouth Gulf and the Ningaloo Marine Park.
The judgement means Native Title holders will continue to play a key role in looking after their Country through consultation and negotiation in relation to development in their area, including mining.
Traditional Owner Kath Ryan said it was a great achievement for the Traditional Owners who have fought many years for Native Title.
“This is a great day of achievement for our people, I’m filled with pride. I’m so pleased we are recognised as Traditional Owners and we should be respected as such,” Ms Ryan said.
Traditional Owner Hazel Walker said it was a special day of uniting the Traditional Owners of the land who will pass on the responsibility to future generations.
“Native Title has brought the group together, it has been a long journey for us. Now it is time to take young people on Country to learn the journey of our Elders,” Ms Walker said.
The on-Country hearing was held at Gwoonwardu Mia Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre in Carnarvon, with the Federal Court, representatives of the State and Federal Governments and Traditional Owners coming together to witness the historic occasion.
On the day, Justice John Griffiths said it was a momentous achievement that shows the significance of the Native Title Act 1993.
“This is a wonderful day for everyone involved, especially the Indigenous people who have shown such extraordinary patience and determination to achieve this outcome,” Justice Griffiths said.
“I congratulate them all and reflect to acknowledge all the good work done by those who cannot be here today.”
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC), the Native Title Representative Body for the Yamatji Region, held celebrations for Traditional Owners after the hearing.
YMAC CEO Simon Hawkins congratulated the Native Title holders on securing their Native Title rights after many years of waiting and hard work.
“It’s taken more than two decades of perseverance and commitment by the Yinggarda, Baiyungu and Thalanyji people to achieve this recognition. It’s great to now see them able to celebrate and enjoy this success as a community,” Mr Hawkins said.
By Sarah Mozley