Joombarn-buru Native Title claimants have had their unbreakable connection to Country recognised by the Federal Court, with their Native Title over a portion of land in the Kimberley being declared on Wednesday.
The recognition, delivered by Justice Neil McKerracher QC in a hearing in Perth, came after seven years of negotiations.
Those negotiations have not only been with the State of Western Australia but also with one another, as the Native Title Holder group is made up of multiple language groups.
Jabirr Jabirr–Ngumbarl, Yawuru, Nyikina, Nimanburr, Warrwa and Nyul Nyul Peoples worked together on the claim which covers land about 70 kilometres north-east of Broome and 55 kilometres west of Derby, within the Shire of Broome.
‘Joombarn-buru’ means wetland, which describes much of the 940 square kilometre area. The area includes Mount Jowlaenga, a culturally significant site.
The Country was traditionally a meeting place for the different groups who all used the land and is entirely bounded by other Native Title determination areas.
While litigated determinations are reached through court trials, this was a consent determination, which came as a result of the State and Claimants reaching an agreement under the Native Title Act.
Nyikina woman Rosita Shaw is part of the Native Title Holders group.
She told the National Indigenous Times, just as the ancestors of the claimants worked together, so did the claimants.
“Working together as different language groups is the only way to move forward, our old people shared the land and they traded with each other in the Joombarn-Buru area, they had to live and cross over boundaries and trade,” she said.
“Our ancestors, they’d be very proud of us today, our Old People were always fighting for Native Title for a very long time.”
“When we were young, the Old People used to tell us, ‘you’ve got to stand up strong for your Country, you look after Country, the Country will do the right thing by you’.”
Shaw said she was excited about what the determination means for the future.
“It gives us more to go back out on Country, take our children back on country and teach them about the lore and to keep your Country and culture strong,” she said.
Shaw said the determination would also provide the group with a solid position when dealing with mining companies.
Sheffield Resources Limited has plans for a mineral sands project in the area with a projected mine life of more than 40 years.
“Now that we have our Native Title, they now have a challenge in front of them, they have to respect our Native Title rights, respect our Indigenous Land Use Agreement and respect us as Traditional Owners, especially when there are contracts from the mining companies, then the first thing they should look at is traditional owner contracts,” Ms Shaw said.
Joombarn-buru Aboriginal Corporation is the Prescribed Body Corporate that will work to manage and protect the Native Title rights and interests for this determination.
By Aleisha Orr
**Photo: Native Title Holder Ngumbarl-Jabirr Jabirr woman Francesca Ishigushi nee Augustine shakes hands with Justice Neil McKerracher QC (in front of the rest of the claimant group) at the Federal Court in Perth following the delivery of the Native Title determination.