For the first time, Western Australia’s Kimberley region will see multiple native title claims determined on country within three days.
By the end of the week, the Kimberley will be approximately 93.5% native title determined.
The first of the claims was lodged in 1996 for the recognition of Ngarrawanji native title across 4,000 square kilometres mainly covering the Moola Bulla pastoral station in the eastern region of the Kimberley.
The Ngarrawanji native title claim was celebrated at Moola Bulla Station yesterday with Greg Tait, a member of the Applicant, in the group of over 100 who attended the determination.
“Today we can walk away with a clear mind and a clear heart. We got here and we should all be very proud of that. All the old people and the spirits will be very proud to see us and our kids here today,” Mr Tait said.
The Yurriyangem Taam native title claim was lodged in 2010 and is part of the Malarngowem claim lodged in 1998. Both are to be determined on Thursday.
Part of the Applicant for Yurriyangem Taam, Shirley Purdie said the determination would be a happy day.
“We feel good, we really happy, we been waiting long time for it, we really happy we gonna gettem back for Yurriyangem Taam. Gettem native title for our country,” Ms Purdie said.
The Yurriyangem Taam native title area covers approximately 23,000 square kilometres, with 50% of the area receiving recognition for exclusive possession native title.
The Malarngowem claim is in the East Kimberley region like the Ngarrawanji claim and covers an area of approximately 7,500 square kilometres.
Jean Malay, a member of the Malarngowem native title claim, said there would be mixed feelings on determination day.
“Many of our elders have passed and now that we are ready for this recognition, we wish they were here with us,” Ms Malay said.
“We will feel a little emotional, but happy as well.”
After the Yurriyangem Taam and Malarngowem determinations on Thursday, there will also be special acknowledgement of the Goorring native title claim that was determined late last year in Perth.
Kimberley Land Council CEO Nolan Hunter said these native title determinations are testament to Australia’s Traditional Owners who have never given up the fight for recognition of connection to country.
“Securing native title gives people authority to make decisions about what happens on their land – rights that were unjustly taken away during colonisation,” Mr Hunter said.
Mr Hunter also recognised that native title can place additional trauma and take an emotional toll on many Traditional Owners.
“The native title process forces people to disclose deeply personal and sensitive information to prove their connection to country,” Mr Hunter said.
The CEO acknowledged the need to improve the native title process to make it less divisive and traumatic.
“Native title is an extremely important recognition of peoples’ rights before the law, but it comes at a cost,” Mr Hunter said.
“This cost must be recognised.”
After this week’s determinations, over 34,000 square kilometres of East Kimberley country – an area larger than Belgium – will be recognised as native title lands.