The Federal Court of Australia held an extraordinary hearing at Yamba on Thursday June 25, to hand down orders relating to the Yaegl People’s native title claim.
The ‘consent’ determination, delivered by Justice Jayne Jagot, recognises the Yaegl People’s rights to hunt, fish, gather resources and conduct their cultural practices on their country.
The determination also means that the Yaegl People have rights, under the Native Title Act 1993, to be consulted and play an active role in how their country is managed; however, it will not change who currently owns the lands.
Freehold titles and certain special leases extinguish native title on those parcels of land and, in some areas, native title will be partially extinguished and co-exist with other interests.
Native title holders are still bound by Australian laws on the lands.
The consent determination – all parties involved in negotiations must agree before the determination is handed down –is the first step in a process that will eventuate in the development of Indigenous Land Use Arrangements over the granted lands.
The determination does not create new rights; rather it provides legal recognition of the pre-existing rights of Aboriginal traditional owners.
Natalie Rotumah, NTSCORP (The native title service provider for Aboriginal traditional owners in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory) CEO Natalie Rotumah, who is a Minjungbal Bundjalung woman from the Tweed River, said the determination recognises non-exclusive native title rights over 650 parcels within two claim areas.
“Importantly, the consent determination area for Yaegl #1 includes a large stretch of the Clarence River and its tributaries from just west of Harwood to the river’s mouth.
“Sacred sites such as the Dirrangan [near the mouth of the Clarence River] now have an extra layer of protection.
“The area for Yaegl #2 includes numerous reserves and sites of significance along the Clarence River and at Maclean and Yamba.”
She said the Yaegl People, who filed their first application in 1996, have fought long and hard to gain recognition for their traditional rights and interests.
“I congratulate them for their perseverance and tenacity in pursuing native title for 19 years.
“I share with them their frustration that the seaward extent of Yaegl #2 has been excluded from the consent determination area at this time.
“I know that Yaegl people hold the stories for the sea off Yamba and Angourie, for example, and I urge the NSW Government to recognise their connection without taking the matter to trial.”
Ms Rotumah reassured land-holders in the claim area that their “validly held interests in land would not be affected” by the decision”.
“Today’s decision recognises non-exclusive native title rights for Yaegl people,” she said.
“Other rights in land take precedence in this situation.
“There is nothing to fear from native title and I hope that all landholders in the district take the opportunity and work closely with Yaegl people for the betterment of all.”
Check out the Independent’s Facebook page for detailed maps of the successful native title claims.