One of Australia’s longest-running native title claims has been determined after a quarter of a century.
- The Barngarla people have been granted native title over Port Augusta
- It came after a 25-year legal process in the Federal Court
- The city is a significant meeting place for Aboriginal people from all nations
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains an image and name of a person who has died.
The Barngarla people were granted native title over the city of Port Augusta during a ceremonial sitting of the Federal Court at what is now called Gladstone Square, one of their most significant meeting places.
Port Augusta will be added to more than 44,000 square kilometres of the Eyre Peninsula already recognised as Barngarla county under native title law.
Presiding over Friday’s sitting, Justice Natalie Charlesworth, a former local, recognised the Barngarla people’s connection to the area as about 100 people looked on.
Justice Charlesworth said Port Augusta was often misunderstood by locals and non-Aboriginal people.
“There are people who understand Port Augusta as a place, but there are many people who just don’t get it,” she said.
“Some people dump on the place, not just with their litter but with their words.
“Their nostrils can’t detect the smell of the saltbush.
“At a human level, they don’t understand the inhabitants of this place, their humour, their intellect, their aspirations.
“They wrongly equate disadvantage and dialect with stupidity or other forms of inferiority.”
For Barngarla elder Harry Dare, the determination brought a myriad of emotions.
His family was heavily involved in the native title claim over the past 25 years, but many did not live to see the results of their hard work.
Mr Dare and many others wore a T-shirt with an illustration of his sister, Lorraine, a “Barngarla warrior” who played a big part in the determination of native title across the state but did not live to see Port Augusta gain native title.
Other elders were remembered at the court sitting for their contribution to successful claims of native title over Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Port Augusta.
“A lot of my family members, sisters and brothers, aren’t here with us to celebrate this day,” Mr Dare said.
“I’m sure that wherever they are, they are looking down on us with pride.
Justice Charlesworth also paid tribute to those lost before the determination.
“The court recognises those elders that worked so hard for this result and some of them have not survived to witness the outcome of their labours today.”
A place to meet
Jason Bilney, the chairman of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, said he was proud to be part of the next generation to continue the fight for recognition.
He said Port Augusta was a particularly significant inclusion to the Barngarla native title area and was also an important location to Indigenous people across the state.
“Port Augusta’s always been the crossroads; whether it’s the crossroads for Indigenous people, let alone the crossroads for Australia.