Re­lief, joy at ver­dict

Pilbara News - - Front Page - ■ Tom Zaun­mayr

A young tra­di­tional owner, John Ash­bur­ton, choked up as he peered at his el­ders who sat be­fore him, on the cusp of re­al­is­ing a dream 14 years in the mak­ing.

And as a Fed­eral Court judge said the words the Pu­utu Kunti Kur­rama and Pinikura peo­ples have been wait­ing for since 2001, the el­ders too burst into tears of joy and re­lief.

It was just be­fore noon last Wed­nes­day that Jus­tice Neil McKer­racher, sit­ting be­hind a plas­tic fold­out ta­ble un­der­neath a tent in the bush east of Nanu­tarra, de­ter­mined the PKKP peo­ples to be the tra­di­tional own­ers of 9521sqkm of land cov­er­ing the Ash­bur­ton Plains and Hamer­s­ley Plateau.

Jus­tice McKer­racher said there was strong ev­i­dence spir­i­tual pos­ses­sion of the land by the PKKP peo­ples had con­tin­ued un­bro­ken for thou­sands of years.

About 150 peo­ple turned out to the House Creek hear­ing where lawyers rep­re­sent­ing pas­toral­ists, the Ya­matji Marlpa Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion and the State So­lic­i­tors Of­fice watched Jus­tice McKer­racher pre­side over the hear­ing in the bush in their cus­tom­ary robes.

PKKP el­der Mar­jorie Hughes said it had been a “won­der­ful” day.

“Ev­ery­one is so proud of (se­nior el­der) aunty Maudie (Dow­ton) and our el­ders in the past who have handed down their sto­ries, cul­ture and lan­guage to ev­ery­one,” she said.

“I am so proud to be able to stand up here to­day and talk about our coun­try to our peo­ple.

“We gotta be up there in the front now — leave the past be­hind and go to the fu­ture for our young gen­er­a­tion.”

Mrs Hughes said she and fel­low el­ders, past and present, were al­ways con­fi­dent this day would come.

It was the 50th na­tive ti­tle de­ter­mi­na­tion in WA, fol­low­ing on from the 49th claim by the Jur­ruru peo­ple made just down the road at Perry Flats a day ear­lier.

YMAC chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Hawkins said 14 years of per­se­ver­ance and hard work had fi­nally paid off.

“Af­ter 14 long years I am very glad that this could fi­nally be set­tled with the State Gov­ern­ment’s con­sent, rather than hav­ing to go through a stress­ful and ex­pen­sive trial,” he said.

“I look for­ward to more con­sent de­ter­mi­na­tions, so na­tive ti­tle groups can move on to the next stage.”

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