Recog­ni­tion af­ter long fight for rights

North West Telegraph - - News - Sy­narah Mur­phy

A 20-year fight by the Kari­yarra peo­ple of Port Hed­land is fi­nally over af­ter the Fed­eral Court recog­nised them as the tra­di­tional own­ers of their coun­try last month.

More than 140 peo­ple at­tended the on-Coun­try Court hear­ing at Port Hed­land’s Civic Gar­dens.

The De­ter­mi­na­tion cov­ers 17,354sqkm of Kari­yarra tra­di­tional coun­try, through the town of Port Hed­land, pas­toral leases and min­ing com­pa­nies.

The Kari­yarra peo­ple’s na­tive ti­tle claim was lodged in 1998 and Fed­eral Court judge Jus­tice Barker said they had a lot to be proud of and ac­knowl­edged the im­por­tance of hard work.

“It is al­ways great to look around and see the chil­dren who are here, who we all know will carry the Kari­yarra law on into the fu­ture. Congratulations to all of you,” he said.

“There are a lot of peo­ple who have en­gaged in the process in a com­mend­able fash­ion and to sum that up . . . from the bot­tom of my heart, I con­grat­u­late ev­ery­body on the job they have done in this mat­ter.”

Tra­di­tional owner Donny Wilson said his peo­ple had waited a very long time to be recog­nised as land­hold­ers through their strong con­nec­tion to their land and wa­ters, through their in­trin­sic local knowl­edge of its nat­u­ral re­sources and the ge­og­ra­phy of the land and seascape.

“To­day means a lot for us. We’ve waited for over 20 years and our fam­ily and claimant group are very happy to re­ceive na­tive ti­tle,” he said.

“It’s emo­tional, be­cause of our peo­ple who have been with us and are now gone. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are to­day.”

Pic­ture: Stu­art Bell

Jus­tice Barker con­grat­u­lates tra­di­tional owner Ray­lene Gor­don-But­ton.

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