Native Title rights delivered to Nukunu people

History was made on Monday, June 17 when a 23-year fight for native title was delivered to the Nukunu people in a Federal Court in Port Germein.

The Nukunu people filed a claim in 1996 for the area which expands across 12,580 square kilometres. It reaches as far north as Cradock in the Flinders Ranges and follows south to Redhill.

The judgement was delivered by Justice Natalie Charlesworth, who was able to emotionally connect with the day's importance, she explained that the day was too long coming for the Nukunu people.

"It might feel like the negative determination involves something being taken away from you by the court but that is not true, either as a matter of fact or law. Rather, what the determination does is recognises something that has previously been lost.

"That acknowledgement by the state that the whole of this determination area was Nukunu country at sovereignty is important.

"In a sense the agreement that you have reached involves the recognition by you as the claim group that something has been lost and it is important that this aspect of determination not be ignored and it be part of the discussion as much as the positive determination," Justice Charlesworth explained.

The Port Germein and Districts Hall was filled with almost 70 people who were eager to see the Justice Charlesworth deliver the determination.

One of the original claimants Lindsay Thomas, says it was a really happy day for him and now all his stress is gone.

"It was such a long, long fight but we got there in the end. We never thought we were going to, because we are such a small group, but I am as happy as hell to tell you the truth.

DETERMINATION: The Nukunu native title determination is the area marked as SC1996/005. Map by Native Title Vision.

DETERMINATION: The Nukunu native title determination is the area marked as SC1996/005. Map by Native Title Vision.

"It's just a long time and a big part of my life - but it was worth it. I'm still young enough to enjoy my County here," Mr Thomas said.

Looking ahead, Mr Thomas explains that they have plans for their lands and waters and hope to be able to start rehabilitating elements that were lost.

"Now we can actually rehabilitate our lands, and the waters. We have talked about this already and we have already started planting remnants that were here originally. We are also looking at the oyster reef to bring back the waters and clean them again and bring back fish species."

At Monday's deliberation were generations of Nukunu people, including descendants of the late Margaret Turner (nee Smith) who fought relentlessly to see the claims awarded.

Mr Thomas speaks of the generations in the room, especially of those younger to him and how important the day is to them and what can be expected in the future.

"It means a whole new thing [for future generations] because they did understand the title fight and what it meant, but they went through the hard times with their grandparents and great uncles dying and stuff like that.

"That means a great deal to them now because they know that they have got control of their destiny now and we will encourage that as the older Nukunu, we will encourage that all the way," Mr Thomas said.

Monday's determination did not include the Port Augusta area SC1996/004, a separate still active matter subject to overlapping claims by the Nukunu & Barngarla peoples.