After a 20-year wait, Traditional Owners of the town of Pine Creek in the Northern Territory have finally been recognised as native title holders of the area.
First lodged in 1999, the result of the native title claim was celebrated in Heritage Park on April 9th where over 160 people gathered to hear the verdict.
The Wagiman and Jawoyn Bolmo, Matjba and Wurrkbarbar groups won mostly exclusive possession native title over an area totalling about 12km².
Exclusive possession native title is the highest recognition possible under Australian property law. The groups now have the same rights as private land owners.
Senior Wagiman man George Jabul Huddleston and his brothers submitted some of the first native title claims for Pine Creek. He said he’s happy they finally have the land back.
“Of my four brothers, I am the only one left. I went four times [to] hearings to give evidence. I am happy to get back the land. I am happy now,” Mr Huddleston said.
Jawoyn elder Mick Markham said this determination would bring certainty for the town’s future as the native title holders now have a say in any future uses of their land.
“Thank you to our elders who fought this for 20 years. They started this. And it’s a special day of remembrance for them. This determination will free up a lot of the blocks here. People from the communities can move in and buy a block, and live in this town,” Mr Markham said.
The decision also recognises the traditional rights and shared connection these Indigenous groups have to their country.
“All the years I grew up in this town we had no voice. We finally got there. I learnt a lot from the senior women and men. They started it off. We finished it off,” said senior Jawoyn Wurrkbarbar woman Bessie Coleman.
Northern Land Council Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi welcomed the decision.
“Congratulations to the native title holders on this historic achievement. It has been a long time coming. This is a great day for the Wagiman and Jawoyn Bolmo, Matjba and Wurrkbarbar people,” said Chairman Bush-Blanasi.
The children and grandchildren of the native title holders are also now able to carry this legacy forward into the future.
By Hannah Cross