Traditional owners celebrate title rights

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Aboriginal flag
Camera IconAboriginal flag Credit: Getty Images

The traditional owners of more than 11,120sqkm of West Pilbara land, including Onslow, have celebrated 10 years since their native title rights were recognised.

A decade to the day the Thalanyji people gained native title over the vast area of Pilbara land on September 18, 2008, group members gathered at events in Onslow and Perth to mark the milestone occasion.

Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation chairman Cyril Hayes said gaining native title 10 years ago had been a “very proud moment” which was important for his people to remember.

“(This is) a recognition of our ownership to the area; we have been there for thousands of years and it was important for our old people to see it recognised in their lifetime,” he said. “Many have passed now and it has been handed to us to care for.

“We need to walk in both worlds and be proud to do so, and this has allowed us to do that and be successful in both worlds.”

The initial Thalanyji native title claim, which consisted of two applications, was lodged in 1999, but was not awarded until nine years later.

Negotiations involved more than 25 different parties including the Puutu Kunti Kurrama, Pinikura and Thudgari people as well as government, pastoralists and representatives of the pearling, fishing, mining and telecommunications industries.

Since then, BTAC has grown and developed a range of community and business projects on behalf of the group, including service stations, a mechanic, a catering business, a beef and pastoral supply company and a charitable foundation. BTAC chief executive Matthew Slack said the native title claim process had been driven by a handful of members who worked “tirelessly” and with no external support, but their struggle had paid off.

“This celebration recognises 10 years since the Federal Court of Australia recognised the Thalanyji people’s land by way of native title determination,” he said.

“The determination has allowed Thalanyji to develop a thriving enterprise, ensuring a secure financial future for their people.”

Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Simon Hawkins said the Thalanyji people were one of only a handful of traditional owner groups in the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Mid West to reach the 10th anniversary of their native title recognition.

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