Bonner family battle to prove claim on land
THE descendants of Australia’s most well-known indigenous politician are desperately trying to prove their heritage, amid claims their group is made up.
The family of Neville Bonner, Australia’s first indigenous member of parliament, are in a battle to regain recognition after their claim was successfully overthrown and an agreement with Ipswich City Council suspended.
The Jagera group has long been regarded as traditional owners of the land covering Ipswich and surrounds, along with the Yuggera and Ugarapul people. But a native title claim lodged by the Yuggera Ugarapul people approved in August, means that recognition has been extinguished.
In 2008, Ipswich City Council was the first in Queensland to sign an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the three recognised traditional owner groups.
An ILUA is an agreement between indigenous people and councils to ensure fair land use and fair consultation over development, for example. The ILUA was suspended by the council, following the acceptance of the new claim lodged with the National Native Title Tribunal, which rendered the old agreement “null and void”.
Madonna Thomson, one of Neville Bonner’s descendants and Jagera Daran Pty Ltd Director, a cultural heritage consultation company, said she had always been told she was a Jagera woman.
“When Grandpa Neville was elected to the Senate, he made no bones about his identity as a Jagera man. He proudly proclaimed it,” she said. “In the thirty years from Grandpa Neville’s election until the time of his death, nobody challenged his identity as a Jagera man, nor the fact that our family’s ancestors were Jagera.”
Elder Aunty Pat Thompson grew up in Ipswich and is the descendant of King Billy Turner, acknowledged as the Chief of the Yuggera tribe, according to Ipswich City Council’s records.
The 72-year-old great granddaughter of King Billy didn’t hear the name ‘Jagera’ until about 1960.
Lawyer Trevor Haff represents the Yuggera people and helped lodge the new claim. According to Mr Haff, the Jagera’s native title claim was discontinued because they could not show their connection to the area.
He said from the moment the new claim was accepted; “the Jagera people had no official role whatsoever in the area.”
A council spokesperson said the organisation was keen to organise a new agreement.
“Council is very keen to negotiate a new ILUA with the Aboriginal Party to ensure that positive engagement between council and traditional owners can continue,” the spokesperson said.