Monday, February 12, 2007

Federal court rejects collective native title claim

One of Australia’s biggest native title claims was settled on Monday 5th February 2007, nearly eight years after it was registered. The Federal Court has dismissed a native title claim over a massive area of land north of Kalgoorlie, in southern Western Australia. The claim mainly involved the Wongatha group and another seven overlapping claims.

The Wongatha land claim, an amalgamation of 21 previous claims, covers 160,000 square kilometres of northern Goldfields land where native title has not been extinguished by roads, towns, or freehold title.

However, the dismissed claim did not close the door for future claims...
[Goldfields Land and Sea Council is the principal voice for Aboriginal people from the Goldfields-Esperance region on matters to do with land and waters, governance, social and economic development, heritage and other matters of justice. The GLSC is the Federal Government-appointed Native Title Representative Body for the region, enjoying widespread support from communities, organisations and individuals throughout.]

In handing down his decision, Justice Kevin Lindgren said the groups did not all have a similar cultural attachment to the land, and there was no way they could collectively prove such a connection.

However Justice Lindgren did not rule out any future claims. He said he believed some native title did exist on the area of land, but it would be likely to be limited to individuals or much smaller groups. The claim includes areas of seven overlapping claims. There were nearly 400 respondents.

The meeting of Wongatha, Mantjintjarra Ngalia, Koara and Wutha claimants was held at the WMC Auditorium in Kalgoorlie. The 160,000km2 Wongatha claim in the northern Goldfields was first registered in 1999. Federal Court hearings for the Wongatha and seven overlapping claims commenced five years ago (February 19, 2002) and ran until early 2004. About 90 witnesses provided evidence of strong on-going rights and interests in their traditional land.

ABC News - 5th Feb 07
The West - 3th February 2007
The West - 5th February 2007
The Age - February 3, 2007
Goldfields Land Council: 29 Jan 07

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