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Court rules on Western Bundjalung native title claim

At a Federal Court hearing held at Tabulam race course on Tuesday August 29, Justice Jayne Jagot handed down a positive determination of native title for the Western Bundjalung people of northern NSW. The determination recognises the native title rights and interests of Western Bundjalung people (such as the right to fish, hunt, gather, camp and protect sites of significance) for about 820 identification areas of land within the claim area, including national parks and state forests. The claim was filed in December 2011. NTSCORP’s (Native Title Service Provider for Aboriginal Traditional Owners in NSW) CEO, Natalie Rotumah (a Minjungbal Bundjalung woman from Tweed Heads), commented on the positive determination: “This is a fantastic result for Western Bundjalung People. “They made the decision over six years ago to withdraw many previous claims and come together to file a unified application. “The combined strength of Western Bundjalung people has helped this claim get across the line.” Terry Robinson, a Western Bundjalung claimant, spoke about the strong emotions evoked by the consent determination hearing: “It was an honour to attend today’s hearing at Tabulam,” Mr Robinson said. “It has been a long fight begun by my grandparents and the other elders of that generation for recognition as Western Bundjalung traditional owners. “Our country, our Jugun, has looked after us and it is now our turn to look after country.” Dr Ken Lum, NTSCORP research manager, commented on the evidence gathered to support the application: “Numerous claimants gave affidavits about the connection to country, including information about Dreaming stories and continuing cultural practices such as turtle diving. “Our research staff also prepared anthropological and historical reports assessing the strength of the evidence and how the cultural practices of Western Bundjalung people are governed by their traditional law and customs.” Western Bundjalung people have formed the Ngullingah Jugun (Our Country) Aboriginal Corporation (a prescribed body corporate under native title legislation) to manage their native title rights and interests. Graeme walker, a Western Bundjalung man, said: “We intend to use the corporation as a vehicle to have our rightful say about the management of our land. “Any businesses looking to do work in Western Bundjalung country should be coming to us first; and we are looking forward to working with them.”