Kariyarra native title rights recognised at on-country determination

Synarah MurphyNorth West Telegraph
Justice Barker from the Federal Court of Australia congratulates Traditional Owner Raylene Gordon-Button
Camera IconJustice Barker from the Federal Court of Australia congratulates Traditional Owner Raylene Gordon-Button Credit: Picture: Stuart Bell

A 20-year fight by the Kariyarra people of Port Hedland is finally over after the Federal Court recognised them as the traditional owners of their country last month.

More than 140 people attended the on-country court hearing at Port Hedland’s Civic Gardens.

The determination covers 17,354sqkm of Kariyarra traditional country, through the town of Port Hedland, pastoral leases and mining companies.

The Kariyarra people’s native title claim was lodged in 1998 and Federal Court judge Justice Barker said they had a lot to be proud of and acknowledged the importance of hard work.

“It is always great to look around and see the children who are here, who we all know will carry the Kariyarra law on into the future. Congratulations,” he said.

“There are lot of people who have engaged in the process in a commendable fashion.”

Traditional owner Donny Wilson said his people had waited a very long time to be recognised as landholders through their strong connection to their land and waters and their intrinsic local knowledge of its natural resources and geography.

“Today means a lot for us. We’ve waited for over 20 years and our family and claimant group are very happy to receive native title,” he said.

“It’s emotional, because of our people who have been with us and are now gone. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

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