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Native title ruling for all Australians.

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Media Release

Native Title ruling a win for all Australians


30 May 2001


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission says that last night’s native title win, for land outside of Broome, is something all Australians can celebrate.

The Federal Court ruled that an area of land, known as Kunin, near Dampier Creek, was central to the belief system of the Yawuru (pron: Ya-ru) people and highly significant to their culture.

ATSIC Chairperson Rosetta Sahanna-Pitt said the ruling showed that, despite the devastation of British sovereignty, the proud culture of the Yawuru continued.

“The ruling acknowledges that Australia has a proud and ancient culture which continues to this day,” Ch Sahanna-Pitt said.

The ruling determined that the Yawuru people, their law and their land are interconnected with one another and for this reason the Yawuru are the rightful owners of Kunin, an area of 121 hectares.

“Since time immemorial, the Yawuru have lived and hunted in Kunin and performed sacred ceremonies. Their descendants continue to practice these traditions today and also endeavour to protect Kunin according to their obligations as Senior Law Men of the Yawuru,” Ch Sahanna-Pitt said.

“The finding of native title in an area of rapid urban development must warm the hearts of Aboriginal people everywhere. Native title is not just for those Aboriginal people living traditional lifestyles in remote places. It is for all Aboriginal people who continue to practice their laws and customs.

“Indigenous culture is what makes this country unique and vastly different to Britain or any other country. This ruling is a triumph for Indigenous culture but also a triumph for all Australians”.

In handing down his findings, Justice Merkel said there had been much misunderstanding of native title. He hoped this case would help explain why a just legal system acknowledged that native title rights had not been extinguished as a result of European settlement in Australia.

The judgement is only the fourth time that native title has been determined in Western Australia and comes on the eve of the historic June 3, 1992 Mabo vs Queensland case.

Media Contact: Elizabeth Drew 0438 904 826


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