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Native title recognised in the Kimberley

A group of traditional owners from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, are the country's newest recognised native title holders following an on-country determination at One Arm Point today.

Federal Court Justice Robert French travelled to the community on the Dampier Peninsula, 190 km north east of Broome, to make the final orders for the Bardi and Jawi people delivering the eighth native title determination in the region.

The Bardi and Jawi people first lodged their claim in 1995 covering 1037 square kilometres of land, surrounded by an area of waters including sea and reefs.

Justice French made his judgment in June. The Bardi, and those Jawi with traditional rights to Bardi territory, succeeded in establishing native title over part of the area claimed. Since then the parties have been finalising the terms of the determination. The Kimberley Land Council has represented the traditional owners through periods of mediation and the Federal Court trial.

Today's orders include recognition of exclusive native title rights over parts of the land claimed and non-exclusive native title rights over areas below the mean high water mark. A determination that native title does not exist has been made over Brue Reef.

Tribunal Deputy President Fred Chaney said the applicants joined a growing group of traditional owners in the Kimberley who had fought long and hard for recognition of their rights.

‘Australian law does not bestow rights on native title holders, this is recognition that they have always lived according to their traditional laws and customs,’ he said.

The rights over land include the right to live on the land; the right to access, move about and use the land; the right to hunt and gather; the right to engage in spiritual and cultural activities; the right to use resources including food and ochre and; the right to refuse, regulate and control the use of the land by others.

The rights over areas of water include the right to use and enjoy the reefs and associated water; the right to hunt and gather, including for dugong and turtle, and; the right to use the resources for food, trapping fish, religious, cultural and ceremonial purposes.

The first positive determination of native title in the Kimberley was reached by consent with the Tjurabalan people in August 2001. The region is second only to the Torres Strait for the number of determinations recognising the existence of native title since the Mabo decision in 1992.

For further information see the  map of the determination area.
Charlie Wilson-Clark
08 9268 7315