Yawuru people recognised in Broome 

28/04/2006
Native title has been finalised over the iconic Western Australian town of Broome with a determination handed down by the Federal Court's Justice Ronald Merkel today.

The judgment was delivered on Broome's Town Beach and recognises the Yawuru people as the rightful native title holders, showing they successfully maintained their traditional laws and customs in relation to the land and waters covered by the Rubibi application.

The Yawuru people's efforts to establish native title date back to 1994 when the earliest of several applications were lodged over the Kimberley tourist town. Today's decision covers a combination of applications totalling 5,298sq km.*

It includes pockets of land in and around the townsite and two pastoral stations, one of which is currently held by the Indigenous Land Corporation. Justice Merkel's judgment clarifies areas where native title has been extinguished.

National Native Title Tribunal Deputy President Fred Chaney said the native title process had involved stages of litigation and intensive periods of mediation over several years. He said the court's decision should help guide native title negotiations in other parts of the Kimberley and Western Australia.

"This recognition for the Yawuru people is the latest in a series of successful claims for the Kimberley which have been determined by the court," he said. "It is my hope the decision will provide guidance to assist in the finalisation of other matters by agreement."

Justice Merkel found the Yawuru were largely successful in their application but the criteria for extinguishment of native title meant their rights and interests were partially or totally extinguished in relation to significant parts of the area.

Some of the rights and interests in areas where exclusive possession could not be recognised include the right to live on land; the right to access and move about on the land and waters; the right to hunt and gather on the land and waters for personal, domestic or non-commercial communal purposes. These include social, cultural, religious, spiritual and ceremonial purposes.

View a map of the area.

Charlie Wilson-Clark
08 9268 7315
0419 441 504