Demonstrating that positive outcomes can be achieved through constructive negotiations, even during times of extreme adversity, the Kiwirrkurra people of remote Western Australia will today gain legal recognition of their native title rights over approximately 42,900 sq km of land and waters in the Gibson Desert.
Today at Moyen on Kiwirrkurra country, Justice French of the Federal Court of Australia is scheduled to hand down a consent determination of native title over an area located in the shires of East Pilbara and Ngaanyatjarraku to the west and adjacent to the border between Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
The Kiwirrkurra are achieving this recognition despite hardships inflicted by severe floods in March this year that have displaced them from their homelands, forcing them to disperse and seek refuge across Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
National Native Title Tribunal President, Mr Graeme Neate, congratulates the Kiwirrkurra people, the Ngaanyatjarra Council Aboriginal Corporation that represented them and all parties involved in reaching this negotiated outcome, including the Western Australian Government, Telstra Corporation Ltd and Aurora Gold Pty Ltd.
"I welcome the State Government's commitment to resolving native title matters through constructive negotiations and agreement making between all parties," he said.
"Today's consent determination, the fourth in Western Australia, further supports the Tribunal's view that negotiation, as opposed to litigation, is the most effective way to resolve native title issues. Through negotiation cooperative relationships are developed and all parties are satisfied with the agreed outcome.
"These parties came together with varied interests in the claimed land, differing perspectives on native title and different views on the future of this region. However they were prepared to talk through the issues and reach an outcome that satisfied all parties involved. Through this good will and cooperation the Kiwirrkurra people have progressed their claim to determination."
The native title application was lodged with the Tribunal on 27 June 1995 and negotiations commenced in late 1996.
Among the rights the Kiwirrkurra have sought and will gain is the right to exclusively possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land and waters within the claimed area subject to the validly granted rights of others as determined by Commonwealth, State and Common Law.
"The Kiwirrkurra people are to be commended for persevering with their claim despite the hardships imposed by the flooding of their homelands. These are people who for thousands of years have endured the extremely harsh and unrelenting environment of the Gibson Desert," Mr Neate said.
"This is another positive step towards the resolution of Western Australia's outstanding native title claims. I anticipate that we will be seeing further such outcomes in the future."
According to the Tribunal's records, Australia wide there have been 23 determinations that native title exists by agreement of the parties (excluding Kiwirrkurra) and another 12 court determinations that native title exists following trials.