The latest Waanyi Native Title determination may only have taken four years to get through a court process, but it's part of a much longer fight for Waanyi people
By Keira Jenkins
Source: NITV News 28 SEP 2021
Waanyi people in Queensland's gulf country are celebrating a significant Native Title win this week.
The Federal Court formally recognised Waanyi Native Title over a 441 square kilometre area between the Northern Territory border and Bourketown.
Waanyi Prescribed Body Corporate chairman Alec Doomadgee says this not only means Waanyi people will have rights to negotiate land use of the area, but it also means healing can begin.
"I'm thankful that I can be part of this change-making for my people," he told NITV News.
"But there's still a long way to go. We want to use these Native Title rights for the benefit of all Waanyi people, not just a few, not just one family, all our people."
The determination follows a successful 2018 Native Title claim for Waanyi people of almost 18,000 square kilometres of land west and south of the Northern Territory border.
The latest case took four years, a relatively short time compared to other Native Title applications, but for Waanyi people, it has been a long time coming.
Mr Doomadgee said the case is just one small part of a fight spanning 40 years, when his people led a walk off at Doomadgee mission, establishing the Waanyi Garawa Land Trust in the Northern Territory.
Mr Doomadgee said one of the men leading this movement in the 1980s was his father, who died in 2007.
"This was unfinished business that started a long time ago," he said.
"This is a significant win for Waanyi people. This is fulfilling the dreams of our Elders who came before."
But Mr Doomadgee said this is just the beginning for Waanyi people.
"We have big dreams," he said.
"It's easy to sit back on your laurels and say 'that's done now' but I won't be satisfied until Waanyi people are owning Waanyi business on Waanyi land.
"The way forward is independence, including economic independence. This Native Title is a way of taking our power back, it's a means to a greater goal."
The Native Title wins come as the Commonwealth Government announced the National Native Title Corporation will receive funding for another three years.
"This funding will provide a firm footing for the NNTC to support Traditional Owners navigate the native title system and receive the full range of benefits from their native title holdings," Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said.
Through the Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program, the Queensland Government partners with First Nations communities to care for land and sea country, provide jobs and training and engage future generations.
Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger groups work to conserve Queensland’s important ecosystems and cultural heritage on country, in locations stretching from Cape York to the Bunya Mountains.
The Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program is growing! One hundred new Indigenous Land and Sea ranger positions are being created over the next three years. This will double the number of jobs supported through the Program. Funding for the first 54 of these positions has been allocated across 13 communities. The following organisations have been successful in their grant applications to employ rangers to care for Country.
Over the next 12 months, the Queensland Government will work with these organisations to establish the new rangers, which will add to the 24 established Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea ranger groups. A second round of grant funding, for further Indigenous Land and Sea ranger positions, is expected to be announced in 2022-23
The Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations with grants to employ more than 150 Indigenous Land and Sea rangers across 37 of Queensland’s regional and remote communities. The program provides training, networking and partnership support for ranger groups.
Indigenous Land and Sea rangers deliver negotiated work plans that reflect Traditional Owner, local community, and Queensland Government priorities. Their activities include a wide range of conservation services including cultural burns, feral animal and pest plant control, soil conservation, cultural heritage site protection and biodiversity monitoring. Community engagement activities include Junior Ranger programs and local community events.Minjerribah ranger undertaking prescribed burn.
Traditional Owners employed as Indigenous Land and Sea rangers deliver conservation services that successfully combine traditional knowledge of country and western science. Rangers are skilled in conservation work and bring experience, inter-generational knowledge sharing and formal conservation qualifications to managing country.
Rangers share knowledge at annual Indigenous Land and Sea ranger workshops (PDF, 5 MB), at which ranger teams from across the state gather, hear stories of success, meet with partners and undertake local field trips to broaden their understanding of caring for country approaches.
The program works with ranger groups to diversify their income and attract other investors. Other investors are invited to partner in supporting this highly successful program and a partnership prospectus is available, highlighting the opportunities to sponsor Indigenous ranger groups. The success of Indigenous ranger programs in delivering outcomes for First Nations communities in environmental, social and economic terms has been confirmed through a variety of evaluations and other studies. These include a 2015 evaluation of the program which found that it is delivering on its conservation, First Nations participation and economic objectives
It is a small parcel of land measuring just 441 square kilometres, but to the Waanyi people in Queensland's Gulf Country it has huge significance. The Federal Court has formally recognised native title over the area between the Northern Territory border and Burketown, giving the Waanyi people rights to negotiate future land use, including for pastoral and mining purposes.
It follows a successful 2018 native title claim over almost 18,000 sq km of land to the south and west to the Northern Territory border.
Compared to average native title applications, the Waanyi people's latest case was fast, taking only four years.
But Waanyi Prescribed Body Corporate chairman Alec Doomadgee — tribal name Jarrbikgala — said the fight for land rights had lasted generations.
"The reason I reckon my dad would be smiling down on us right now is because it's an area that he grew up in and where his Janmi ground [is], which was his initiation ground, where he became a young man through tribal lore," the Garawa, Gangalidda and Waanyi man said.
Mr Doomadgee said the Waanyi people were inspired by the Wave Hill walk off in 1966, which eventually secured the Waanyi Garawa Land Trust in the Northern Territory in the 1980s.
Mr Doomadgee said the latest native title claim was the missing link for his father.
"I look back at my life and growing up around him, and his passion, and his real love for his country, and his culture, and hearing him talk about the protection of our sacred sites — it gives me comfort knowing we can protect our cultural heritage," he said.
"It meant a lot to me … to my great-grandfather and my grandfather, my mother, my uncles," Guyanda Waanyi man Gary Rockland said.
"They're no longer here with us."
The Waanyi PBC have released their new Strategic Plan.
The Waanyi PBC sets out its strategy and plans in its Strategic Plan, which is developed every 5 years. Approved by the Waanyi PBC Board, the Waanyi PBC in collaboration with Waanyi Joint Venture developed the Waanyi PBC Strategic Plan- 2020-2025.
The Strategic Plan reaffirms Waanyi PBC’s vision and plan to provide a better sustainable future for the Waanyi people of North West Queensland. With a mission to provide positive solutions targeting the specific needs of the Waanyi people, this Strategic Plan builds on the work that the Waanyi PBC has been undertaking during the first Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020.
“This is an exciting time for the Waanyi people, and I look forward to seeing the progression and execution of the Strategic Plan outlined in this booklet and the benefits it brings for the Waanyi people”- Alec Doomadgee Waanyi PBC Chairman.
“It was a great opportunity to work with the Waanyi people to develop the Waanyi PBC Strategic Plan 2020-2025 which identifies priority opportunities for Waanyi people ”- Tanya Bougoure Training Program Co-Ordinator Waanyi Joint Venture.
The Waanyi PBC’s Strategic plan goals are to provide support to make the lives of the Waanyi people better in the short term, build assets and businesses in the medium term and provide a long-term future for Waanyi peoples through self-determination and sustainable economic development.
New Century have released details on the ‘Significant Potential’ of the resources surrounding the South Block (Magazine Hill) to extend the Century Mine life and increase production. However, the required agreements to mine the block with the Waanyi PBC have not yet been reached.
Waanyi PBC Chairman Alec Doomadgee says the PBC through their lawyers are in negotiations with New Century, to develop a Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the expansion.
“We have been negotiating on behalf of the Waanyi people for months now, to make sure that we get the best deal possible for all the Waanyi mob. This is a process which is being led by our lawyers, and I am confident that we will come to an agreement soon. This agreement will go a long way to ensuring that the mine’s long term benefits flow on to the future generations of Waanyi people through a fair and sustainable Cultural Heritage Management Plan.”
The PBC will keep it’s members informed on the negotiations, and will announce any progressions through the website.
Members of the Waanyi PBC unanimously carried a resolution to change the PBC’s membership requirements, allowing Waanyi people living outside the Gulf to become members.
Prior to the decision to remove clause 12.2 from the PBC’s rulebook, all members of the PBC were required to live in the communities of Biddungu, Mornington Island, Burketown, Camooweal, Mt Isa or Normanton.
That requirement has now been completely removed, allowing Waanyi people to become members no matter where they live.
The Waanyi PBC memebers present discussed the resolution prior to the vote, and heard that many of those present were unable to be members due to the clause. These stories, and the view that all Waanyi people should be able to become members of the PBC despite their place of residence saw the resolution passed unanimously.
Waanyi PBC Chairman Alec Doomadgee said this was a great moment for all Waanyi people, and signalled a major shift in how the PBC operates into the future.
“In the past, the PBC has operated in a way that has shut certain people out. Today that ends. We now have a PBC that is truly open and welcoming to all Waanyi people, and this is something we should all be proud of. This marks the start of a new era for our Mob, an era where we come together as one Mob with one voice – and no Waanyi person is left out. “
“I am proud to have played a small part in this decision, but this isn’t about any one person or family. This is about making sure all the Waanyi mob are together and strong, now and in the future.”