The Bigambul people's native title claim area.
The Bigambul people's native title claim area.

Court recognises 2600sq km native title claim

AN EIGHT and a half year legal battle has ended with a 2600 sq km native title claim spanning from the Balonne to Toowoomba regions recognised.

The Bigambul people and the affected councils, mining and energy companies agreed to settle the majority of the claim. Much of the non-exclusive title area surrounds Millmerran and runs south to the NSW border.

A smaller part is of the claim is awaiting a High Court appeal.

The title claim runs from St George to Inglewood, and from the NSW-Queensland border north to the Moonie River.

The Federal Court action began in April 2009, but the Bigamul people had three previous native title claims dismissed or discontinued. Their first claim was in 1998.

Justice John Reeves said he was concerned with how long the claim had taken to be approved.

"In that period, many of the knowledgeable Bigambul elders have undoubtedly passed away without seeing their native title recognised," he said.

"I am satisfied that the native title rights and interests of the Bigambul People in the determination area are recognisable by the common law of Australia."

Justice Reeves said the decision did not grant native title to the Bigambul people, but recognises the claim they have "long held in the determination area under their traditional laws and customs".

The decision maintains the "rights and interests" of the Balonne, Western Downs, Goondiwindi and Toowoomba councils as well as companies, including Telstra, Origin Energy and Australia Pacific LNG.

Queensland State Development Minister Anthony Lynham said an Indigenous Land Use Agreement would see the Government share future land sale proceeds with the Bigambul people.

Bigambul representative Cheryl Moggs said the decision gave her people recognition on their traditional land.

"It means I can go on to country and say to my ancestors and families past 'Thank you for fighting for us and our country, now it is my turn to keep our customs and practices and to keep your spirit, teaching, wisdom, stories and connection alive for our people'," she said.

"The rest of my life will be contributed to supporting the cultural transmission and re-connection for my people. It will complete me culturally."

ARM NEWSDESK



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