New land rights deal ends fight

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

Tra­di­tional own­ers of Ku­ruma coun­try have crit­i­cised the na­tive ti­tle process af­ter win­ning a lengthy bat­tle for land rights.

As the rest of Aus­tralia paused in time for the race that stops the na­tion, more than 100 tra­di­tional own­ers of the Ja­ji­wara (Robe River) area gath­ered to watch a new le­gacy be inked into law.

That le­gacy was na­tive ti­tle, and for the Ku­ruma Marthud­hunera peo­ple, it has been al­most 20 years in the mak­ing.

De­spite ju­bi­la­tion at the ver­dict, young and old mem­bers of the crowd were quick to point out some of those who had spent their lives fight­ing for this day were not present.

A re­spected elder died be­fore he could see the proud mo­ment for his coun­try and peo­ple.

Ku­ruma elder Cyril Lock­yer said the na­tive ti­tle process had proved a long and hard road.

“The sad thing is the peo­ple who started off on this long and rocky road who aren’t here to­day and I hope their spir­its are with us here,” he said.

“Some of those peo­ple who passed on, they never re­ally got around to pass­ing their knowl­edge on to their kids.”

In his Wel­come to Coun­try, Neil Fin­lay paid tribute to the peo­ple who had died be­fore see­ing the end of this fight.

“It’s sad for me some­times, I feel it where I am stand­ing,” he said.

“It’s sad I know they not around any­more and we been fight­ing for this to get here.

“What the old peo­ple been telling me, you look af­ter the coun­try.”

Speak­ing af­ter the Fed­eral Court hear­ing on be­half of the Depart­ment of Premier and Cab­i­net, Roger Hel­lier said the State

Govern­ment was willing to work with tra­di­tional own­ers wher­ever it could.

Mr Hel­lier said WA was lead­ing Aus­tralia with more than 1.28 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres, or 51 per cent of the State, now fall­ing un­der na­tive ti­tle agree­ments.

He said the Ku­ruma Marthud­hunera Part A de­ter­mi­na­tion was the 43rd in the State.

Ya­matji Marlpa Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Hawkins said the State Govern­ment had set the bar for na­tive ti­tle too high.

“Western Aus­tralia is very much con­trolled by a whole range of other land uses when de­ter­min­ing na­tive ti­tle, so where there is a heavy min­ing in­ter­est it seems to take a very long time,” he said. “It is a re­flec­tion on Western Aus­tralia, the ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tion of the State Govern­ment ver­sus other parts of the coun­try where they see the im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship with tra­di­tional own­ers go­ing for­ward.”

Mr Hawkins said the Ku­ruma peo­ple had been left frus­trated by the process.

Ku­ruma Marthud­hunera Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion chair­woman Sara Slat­tery said it was im­por­tant that the young peo­ple con­tinue to fight for what the elders had started.

“It’s very sad a lot of the peo­ple who started this are no longer here with us but a lot of the peo­ple here to­day re­alise the im­por­tance of it,” she said.

Ms Slat­tery said there was still work to do to se­cure Part B of the de­ter­mi­na­tion.

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