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"Our ancestors will be smiling": Kaurna people gain native title rights

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Kaurna people have been granted native title rights over the Adelaide Plains and metropolitan area in the first such claim to be accepted in an Australian capital city.

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The native title agreement between Kaurna elders, the State Government and the Commonwealth was formally accepted today by a judgement in the Federal Court – 18 years after the original claim was lodged.

The settlement recognises Kaurna people’s native title rights over 17 parcels of undeveloped land not under freehold. It extends from Gulf St Vincent to the Mt Lofty Ranges, from Myponga Beach in the south to Redhill in the north, and across Adelaide’s metropolitan area.

Kaurna people would have rights to live, camp, fish and gather food on these parcels of land, some of which are owned by the Crown, councils and organisations such as SA Power Networks.

The settlement also officially recognises the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains.

The government and Kaurna applicants will now work towards finalising an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), which is anticipated to be settled within six months.

Justice Mortimer delivered the native title judgement at an emotional and packed-out federal court session in Adelaide this morning.

She told the court the 27 submissions of evidence from the Kaurna representatives, anthropologists and state gave a “credible and rational basis” from which to settle the claim.

“This has been a long time in the making,” Mortimer said.

“To see any native title claim determination pass takes fortitude, determination and courage.

“It is particularly poignant after 18 years.”

Mortimer said the State Government had shown “commendable responsibility and productivity” in negotiating the terms, while the Kaurna applicants had shown “responsibility and great dignity.”

“This will be the first time in Australia that there has been a positive outcome within the area of (native title) determination.”

The Kaurna people originally lodged a native title claim back in October 2000 and undertook negotiations with the state from 2013.

Kaurna elder Lynette Crocker, one of the 11 applicants in the claim, told InDaily the judgement was an “emotional joy” for Kaurna people.

“For many years we felt like refugees in our own country,” she said.

“This is a very historic achievement and this (native title) status will assist us in our journey towards the Indigenous Land Use Agreement.

“Our ancestors will be smiling down on us today.”

Katrina Karlapina Power, from the Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation, said she had “enormous pride as a South Australian” after today’s settlement.

“This is cause for all Australians to celebrate,” she said.

“I’m just overwhelmed that Australia has recognised that black laws matter.”

Kaurna elders Garth Agius and Suzanne Russell presented Mortimer and the Kaurna applicant’s lawyer Tim Campell with two urns filled with soil from across Kaurna country.

“You don’t know how much this means to us,” Russell told Mortimer after the formal legal proceedings.

In a speech after the court session, Agius said today “belonged” to the Kaurna nation.

“To every Kaurna mum and dad, sons and daughters, aunty and uncles, Kaurna cousins and especially our Kaurna babies, this is our day.”

“We as a nation have a gaping wound since 1836.

“Today’s win is some medicine that will begin to heal that wound.”

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, who attended the court session, said afterwards she welcomed the native title consent.

“This determination completes the settlement of the Kaurna claim,” she said.

“Determination is an important step towards reconciliation.

“It’s a monumental, epic journey.”

Chapman said she would make sure the next six months would mark the conclusion of the ILUA.

Yesterday, Peramangk man Michael Hunter Coughlan was unsuccessful in a court application to join the Kaurna native title claim.

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