Court decision awards native title to indigenous groups

THREE native title decisions, made during a Federal Court hearing in Moranbah yesterday, gave the Barada Barna and Widi peoples control over an area in the Central Queensland coal fields.

Lou Caruana

The decision covers about 3233 square kilometres of land and waters south-west of Mackay and north-west of Rockhampton in the Bowen Basin.

Acting Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Bill Byrne said: “Future generations of Barada Barna people and Widi people now have their rights protected.

“As the recognised traditional owners, they will be able to pursue economic or cultural development on their very own soil, creating the potential for jobs and opportunities.”

Barada Barna Traditional Owner Les Budby said the determinations meant he could be actively involved in protecting cultural heritage, such as cave paintings.

“Recognition to my people gives a sense of pride and knowledge that we have lived in and around this country for thousands and thousands of years,” he said.

“There are cave paintings which are thousands of years old which have been well preserved and we have discovered and protected a number of fire places – one of which has been carbon dated as 5000 years of age,” he said.

Widi traditional owner Graham Sauney said having native title gave the Widi people the opportunity to continue to work as a society on their own country.

“It will protect our values and give us an opportunity for economic development and employment and training for our people,” he said.

Member for Mirani Jim Pearce congratulated the Barada Barna people and the Widi people on their achievement.

“Today is a proud day for the traditional owners and also for the general community as it offers a great opportunity for all of us to work together for an even better future for everyone,” he said.

Byrne said the determinations settled claims made in 2008 by the Barada Barna and in 2013 by the Widi people.

“This decision recognises their non-exclusive native title rights to access, hunt, fish and gather, conduct ceremonies and teach on these lands. It gives certainty for future community progress and economic development,” he said.

Byrne said the Barada Barna people had also negotiated a Protected Areas Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the Queensland Government to manage the exercise of native title rights and interests within the Dipperu National Park.

“The ILUA also allows for further negotiations and agreements between Barada Barna and the Queensland Government that could deliver opportunities such as economic development, employment, tourism use and training as well as the development of future land management plans,” he said.

Approximately 2699 square kilometres of the land is Barada Barna country, approximately 4 square kilometres is Widi country while the remaining 530 square kilometres is country shared between the Barada Barna People and Widi People.

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