20-year native title process for Yaegl people ends in joy

SUCCESS: Aunty Lillian Williams raises her hand as the crowd applauds the Federal Court’s decision on the Yaegl #1 and #2A land rights claims.
SUCCESS: Aunty Lillian Williams raises her hand as the crowd applauds the Federal Court’s decision on the Yaegl #1 and #2A land rights claims. Adam Hourigan

UNITED we stand, divided we fall.

This was the motto highly-respected Yaegl woman Della Walker, one of the two original claimants for the Yaegl #1 native title claim, lived by.

And while she could not be there yesterday to hear the outcome, her son Billy Walker and her younger sister Aunty Lillian Williams represented her proudly.

Mr Walker said the decision yesterday was a particularly poignant one for his family, as it also marked 11 years to the day since his mother's funeral.

"I am sad that my mother Della Walker (nee Laurie) was not here to see today's decision as she and Joyce Clague initiated the claim back in 1996," he said. "We have lost too many elders during this journey.

MORE: Native title delays unfair as elders pass away: judge

"It brings relief to see a good outcome like this, it's been a long hard process, not only for me, but for the rest of the applicants and the people in the claimant group.

"We've had a lot of discussions around the process of native title and how unfair it is but we sort of became one and came together. We believed this day would come."

Aunty Lillian, 74, is the last of 14 brothers and sisters in the Laurie family, and said it was a very loving, warming day for the Yaegl people.

Aunty Lillian Williams.
Aunty Lillian Williams. Adam Hourigan

"It's warmed my heart; it's overwarmed," she said.

"What a happy ending.

"It's making us free to walk and do whatever we want to do. Years ago we couldn't do that.

"It's up to the younger ones now - they've got to keep the limelight shining."

Seventy-six-year-old Joyce Clague said it had been a lot of work, but she was happy to be there to see the results of the claim she and Della Walker initiated so long ago.

"The people that have come here to see what we started 19 years ago are wonderful," she said.

"There are claimants on the other side of the river as well which we haven't even touched, but I hope that when we do get to that, the process will be made easier because we know now how to do it.

"That's the wonderful thing about it."

Topics:  indigenous native title yaegl

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