A total of 820 land identification areas have been earmarked to be granted native title within the Western Bundjalung claim boundary at the determination hearing tomorrow at Tabulam.
A total of 820 land identification areas have been earmarked to be granted native title within the Western Bundjalung claim boundary at the determination hearing tomorrow at Tabulam. CHRIS ISON

800 land areas subject to landmark native title decision

Saturday 1.00pm: MORE than 800 areas of land are expected to be recognised under native title when the Federal Court hands down its decision on the landmark Western Bundjalung native title determination. 

A total of 820 land identification areas have been earmarked to be granted native title within the Western Bundjalung claim boundary at the determination hearing tomorrow at Tabulam.

The majority of the land poised to be granted title are all national parks and state forests within the claim perimeter.

However, there are some lots within the parks and forests that are not having native title recognised. 

The main reason for this is that research into the land's history may have found it was freehold land, which extinguishes native title.

Justice Jayne Jagot will deliver the determination tomorrow at 12.15pm at the Tabulam Racecourse. 

 

Saturday 5.00am: A LANDMARK native title determination in the region's west is expected to draw a large crowd on Tuesday at Tabulam as a six-year fight for legal recognition will be decided in the Federal Court.

Since it was lodged in 2011, more than 250 people, including indigenous elders and community members, have been involved in the native title negotiations for parcels of land within the western Bundjalung nation.

Major indigenous communities including Baryulgil, Jubullum, Tabulam and Malabugilmah fall within the claim area.

A positive determination will mean the traditional owners of the land and their on-going practices will be recognised by Australian law under the Native Title Act.

 

How did this come about?

 

IN the 1990s, about six native title claims were lodged for different portions of land within the Western Bundjalung nation.

It wasn't until 2011, the descendants of about 19 apical ancestors from the area united to lodge a combined claim.

Native Title Services Corporation has supported the claimants through the processes to gain Native Title.

Chief executive Natalie Rotumah, who is also a Bundjalung woman, credited the hard work of the western Bundjalung community for their commitment to securing native title.

She paid respect to those original claimants who had passed away since the claim was lodged.

 

What does it mean for indigenous peoples?

 

NATIVE title is the recognition in Australian law that indigenous people, in this case Western Bundjalung people, have rights and interests in the land.

Under the Native Title Act, determination recognises those rights on portions of land negotiated within the claim boundary. Freehold titles, such as residential or agricultural land, extinguish native title.

If native title is approved, the Western Bundjalung people will be able to camp, fish, hunt, hold ceremonies and conduct other cultural business on the determined parcels of land.

A spokesman for Ms Rotumah said that means indigenous people will be able to undertake those activities exempt from other state laws.

"In those areas where native title has been recognised they can (carry out cultural practices) without going through those processes," the spokesman said.

 

Why did it take so long?

 

THE Western Bundjalung claim was the fastest determination claim NTScorp has helped processed, Ms Rotumah said.

Some claims, like the Yagel determination in the Clarence Valley, can take up to 20 years to complete.

A report released by the National Native Title Tribunal in 2009 said native title claims take an average of six years to resolve in the Federal Court when all parties agree.

The high levels of evidence needed to prove native title coupled with lengthy court processes and cost have been cited among the main factors that delay native title determinations.

 

What's involved in a native title determination?

 

A SWATHE of experts were involved in the claim process to determine that the western Bundjalung people are descended apical ancestors living within the claim area prior to British settlement.

NTSCorp historian, Michael Bennett was part of the research team gathering evidence to demonstrate the on-going cultural connection between the community and the land.

Mr Bennett said there were extensive anthropological interviews conducted with community members not only to establish their genealogy or connection to the ancestors.

"Continuity is a very important part of the evidence too," Mr Bennett said.

"You have to demonstrate that those practices have been handed down from generation to generation since sovereignty, since white people first arrived to take the land."

Once that evidence is collected, land tenure research is conducted to determine where native title can be established to avoid clashes with freehold titles.

From there, once evidence has been agreed on between the claimants and the relevant government bodies the claim is determined in the High Court or the Federal Court.



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