Wakka Wakka People celebrate native title win after 24 years

Pictured: Members of the Wakka Wakka Applicant with QSNTS' CEO, Kevin Smith. 

(L-R): Katrina Watson, Patricia Bond, Sidney Smith, Kevin Smith, Shane Dynevor Jnr, Stephen Pickering, Irene Simpson and Marissa Cobbo.

AFTER 24 years battling for recognition, today the Federal Court of Australia recognised the Wakka Wakka People as Native Title Holders over approximately 1,178 square kilometres of land and waters within their traditional country.

Held on-country in Cherbourg, the third largest Aboriginal community in Queensland, the Honourable Justice Rangiah recognised the Wakka Wakka People as Native Title Holders over parcels of land spanning from the north-eastern half of the Bunya Mountains National Park in the south and up to the vicinity of Paradise Dam in the north.

Wakka Wakka Traditional Owner, James MiMi said today’s native title win, after so many years, finalises the legacy of the generation before who started it all.

“We’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, this has started so many years ago but we want to make sure it’s done correctly so we’re not going to have any problems in the future with it as well,” Mr MiMi said.

Over many years the Wakka Wakka People have maintained an unwavering connection to country despite the history where hundreds of Aboriginal people from all over Queensland were interned and forcibly removed from their traditional country. Generations of Wakka Wakka People grew up on the Barambah Aboriginal Settlement, later renamed ‘Cherbourg’, where many Wakka Wakka families still reside today.

Of particular significance from today’s outcome is the Wakka Wakka People having exclusive native title rights and interests over approximately 97 percent of the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council area.

Wakka Wakka Traditional Owner, Aunty Patti Bond said today’s outcome has been a long journey for recognition, and to be able to do the things Wakka Wakka People should have been doing many years ago.

“We have all grown up here in Cherbourg, and I call myself a Cherbourg woman. Growing up here in Cherbourg I think there are many traditional areas that we have grown up with as young children,”

“I still experienced control of government policies and looking through the process at the time when things were really hard and harsh…but living with other Wakka Wakka families in the community and even though we didn’t have material things, we enjoyed each other’s company and even though our language was forbidden in the community, we got to experience our own laughter and happiness with our own family…we got to go cray fishing, fishing and hunting and learning traditional ways of doing things with our family and they taught us things we needed to know that our ancestors used and pass on to us over generations,”

“That’s what we do today, with the kids that are performing dance performances that’s passed down through generations and our language, Wakka Wakka language is now being redeveloped in the schools,” Aunty Patti said.

Queensland South Native Title Services Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Smith said, “since time immemorial the Wakka Wakka People invited neighbours from near and far to their Country to hold ceremony and conduct broader business,”

“In doing so they discharged their dual duties of caring for and looking after visitors on their Country for thousands of years. These duties continued even during the terrible period of the racist, so-called ‘protection’ laws of the 19th and 20th centuries when Aboriginal Peoples from across Queensland were forcibly relocated to the ‘mission’ on Wakka Wakka Country,”

“During this period, Wakka Wakka People were also subject to these draconian laws but to their credit they stayed strong and maintained connection to their Country. It is befitting that the Federal Court presides at this very location at Cherbourg to formally recognise the strength and vibrancy of Wakka Wakka People, Country and Culture,” Mr Smith said.

QSNTS congratulates the Wakka Wakka People on this historic occasion as Native Title Holders of their ancestral lands and waters.

ENDS

Media Contact: For all media enquires please contact QSNTS Communications Officer Sophie Gibbs via email sophie.gibbs@qsnts.com.au or (07) 3224 1200.

To view the fact sheet click here.