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On Friday, the Bandjalang people of the Bundjalung Nation in New South Wales had further recognition of their Native Title rights by the Federal Court.

At Evans Head on Bandjalang Country, His Honour Justice Rares of the Federal Court handed down the determination in the presence of Bandjalang Traditional Owners, community members, and members of NTSCORP, the Native Title Service Provider for Aboriginal Traditional Owners in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

The Bandjalang people are the Traditional Owners of Country around the Northern Rivers region including Evans Head, Goanna Headland, Woodburn, Coraki, Broadwater, Busbys Flat, Rappville, Tabbimoble, Bungawalbin, Whiporie and Wyan.

The determination recognised Native Title across 52 parcels of land from two claims registered in 2016 and 2019.

Map of Native Title determined land. Photo supplied by NTSCORP.

Before this the Bandjalang people had their Native Title rights recognised in a consent determination in December 2013.

The determination was the result of two original claims which were lodged in 1996 and 1998 by the late Bandjalang Elder, Uncle Lawrence Wilson.

Whilst Bandjalang people had their Native Title rights recognised over some areas of land in that determination, some parcels of land were excluded because the land fell under the ownership of multiple local Aboriginal Land Councils under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW).

Claimants had to negotiate with land councils to achieve Native Title recognition — a negotiation which successfully saw Native Title rights recognised at the determination on Friday.

“The Native Title Consent Determination handed down today by His Honour Justice Rares allows the Bandjalang people to camp, collect resources for communal use, hold ceremonies and protect sites of significance in accordance with their Traditional Law,” said NTSCORP CEO Natalie Rotumah, who is a Minjungbal Bundjalung woman from the Tweed River.

Bandjalang Elder Simone Barker and Justice Rares (Federal Court). Photo Supplied NTSCORP

The determination also saw the Bandjalang people’s rights recognised over an important cultural site at Bora Ridge.

“I’m very pleased that Bandjalang people now have the court-recognised right to protect Bora Ridge and other sites of significance,” Rotumah said.

“Native Title Holders and Traditional Owners in general are the right people to speak for Country and the right people to protect cultural heritage.”

“It is necessary that any future legislation reflects this.”

Ngunnawal and Gomeroi man and NTSCORP Chair Michael Bell celebrated Friday’s determination.

“Native Title is a hard road at times for the mob to travel,” Bell said.

“But the strength and spirit of Bandjalang people has brought about today’s success.”

Bell said the result was due to extensive consultations and negotiations between many local Aboriginal Land Councils and the Native Title Claimants.

“Native Title and land rights don’t always see eye to eye but today’s result shows that everyone can benefit when we sit down at the table to talk,” he said.

“It sets a positive tone for future negotiation outcomes.”

The number of Native Title determinations in NSW now sits at 15, all of which have been settled by negotiation with the NSW Government.

By Rachael Knowles