FAR West Aboriginal people have rejoiced after they were granted Native Title of over 75,000 kilometres of land following a special sitting of the Federal Court at Lake Pidinga, near Yalata on Thursday.
The hearing was to provide Consent Determination over claims from the Far West Coast claim group to recognise Native Title rights and interests for land stretching from the Western Australia border to Tarcoola in the north and Streaky Bay in the south.
This was the culmination of nearly 18 years of legal struggle, which started with a series of claims from groups representing the Mirning, Wirangu, Kokatha and Anangu people.
These claims were eventually brought together to form one claim in January 2006 after 10 years of mediation.
In his address to the court, Justice John Mansfield referred to the Beatles song A Long and Winding Road.
“Well, it has been a long and winding road to where we are all today, for the Far West Coast people, the state, the court, the National Native Title Tribunal and those with other interests on country over this spectacular country including the pastoralists and the Ceduna council,” he said.
Indigenous people from across the region gathered at Lake Pidinga for the hearing, which began around 2pm.
Far West Coast Native Title Claim solicitor Osker Linde addressed the court, going through the history of the indigenous people in the region and what this day means for the claimants.
Thanks were extended for all who were involved in the process, including those who had since passed.
Justice Mansfield, who presided over the hearing, said in his address the court’s decision didn’t involve them “giving them this country”.
“It is a recognition of something that you have always known, that you are the traditional owners of this country,” he said.
“It reflects the wide community recognition of your rich and diverse culture.
“It is a recognition of your deep and abiding relationship with your country.”
Following Justice Mansfield’s address the court was adjourned, and copies of the Order of the Court were provided to some of the claimants.
The following received copies: Kenneth Roberts, Richard Lebois, Wanda Miller (on behalf of Gladys Miller), Clem Lawrie, Samuel Mastrosavas, Trevor Bryant (on behalf of Kumanara Bryant), Keith Peters, Allan Wilson, Sydney Chamberlain and Iris Burgoyne.