The Federal Court yesterday recognised native title for the Wakka Wakka people over almost 114,000 hectares of the Burnett region.
For traditional owner James MiMi, one of the most significant elements of the Federal Court hearing in Cherbourg was achieving native title over Ban Ban Springs, a sacred site and traditional meeting place.
According to Wakka Wakka legend, Ban Ban Springs was the home of the piebald eel from the days of the dreamtime and only would show itself to elders who spoke Wakka Wakka language and would surface so they could touch them.
“The water from the spring comes from the Seven Sisters hills to the west and has provided the home for the piebald eel and for the Traditional Owners, who return home to stop and enjoy the water when it’s running and to acknowledge to our ancestors that we are returning home,” Mr MiMi said.
“All the tribes came together at Ban Ban Springs before they went up to the Bunya mountains for the festival up there, so that’s a massive one for us.
“Our grandparents started it all. We needed to finalise their legacy.
”We know this is only half of our country that has been given determination but this is the beginning and when we get determination for all Wakka Wakka country we can let our grandparents, Elders passed on, know that the legacy they started is finalised.”
Yesterday’s determination recognises the Wakka Wakka’s native title over areas spread between Yarraman to the south and Childers to the north, and includes the Burnett regions towns of Kingaroy, Murgon Cherbourg, Biggenden and Gayndah. Further areas of the claim are yet to be finalised.
At the ceremony in Cherbourg, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said the landmark decision came after a long journey to win back land justice.
“We need to acknowledge that this moment is a shining light in what is a deep, dark, history of dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this state,’’ Mr Crawford said.
“Every move we make to right the wrongs of the past, such as acknowledging the native title rights of traditional owners, we take a positive step on the path to truth-telling, healing and true reconciliation.”
Resources Minister Scott Stewart’s Department of Resources negotiates native title claims on behalf of the Palaszczuk Government.
He said native title was vital to Queensland’s pathway towards reconciliation as it could assist to preserve Indigenous culture, values, and traditions.
“Native title is now recognised in more than 30% of our state,” Mr Stewart said. “This demonstrates our government’s ongoing commitment to working alongside Indigenous Queenslanders to recognise their native title rights.”
Native title is recognised over more than 535,000 square kilometres of land in Queensland, with almost 355,000 square kilometres currently subject to native title claims.