The Wangkamahdla People have secured formal recognition as Native Title Holders over traditional country on Queensland's north-western border.
In the decision handed down Wednesday by Federal Court Justice Darryl Rangiah, native title was determined over Wangkamahdla country spanning the Mulligan River region from the Toko Range in the north to its lower reaches in the north-eastern corner of the Munga-Thirri National Park, west of Bedourie.
It spans more than 29,300 square kilometres of land.
The Wangkamahdla People also gain exclusive native title over one-fifth of the Munga-Thirri's 10,000 square kilometre expanse, giving the community rights to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the area to the exclusion of all others. Munga-Thirri National Park is renowned for its iconic red sand dunes that stretch up to 200km in length and 90m in height.
This area of the Munga-Thirri National Park is home to a number of natural springs and burial sites of cultural significance to the Wangkamahdla People, and exclusive native title empowers the community to better protect those sites in future.
Wangkamahdla woman Avelina Tarrago says recognition has been hard fought and won, bringing joy and relief to the Wangkamahdla People.
"Having native title over our traditional land is an important step to legal recognition that we are the right people for country," Ms Tarrago said
"This is something we have always known, but now the Courts have recognised that our connection to these lands has never been broken.
"It is really important for our old people who have been fighting for recognition for so long, and we are fortunate to be able to celebrate this with the Elders who are alive today."
Queensland South Native Title Services CEO Kevin Smith said the outcome was a testament to the Wangkamahdla People's resilience as a community.
"Wangkamahdla Country spans the rugged beauty of the Simpson Desert and North-West Channel Country and has been the ancestral home of Wangkamahdla People since time immemorial," Mr Smith said.
"It is Country that has shaped a People who are known for their tenacity, resilience and adaptability; attributes that have served them well in their struggle for legal recognition through the difficult native title process.
"Today's determination by the Federal Court gives Wangkamahdla People nothing they have not known in their collective hearts and minds for all time - that this is Wangkamahdla Country, always was and always will be.
"However, legal recognition will strengthen Wangkamahdla People's ability to protect Country for current and future generations as well as reframe and build constructive relationships with non-Indigenous Australia based on rights and mutual respect.
"Their Old People would be very proud of what the Wangkamahdla Claimants have achieved in a relatively short time - the claim itself only took five and half years, a comparatively short period as far as native title claims go.
"It is a testament to how a Mob can secure positive outcomes if they set a clear goal and work together to achieve it."
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