Legislative Council: Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Narungga Native Title Claim

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:04): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney-General inform the council about the recent consent determination for the Narungga native title claim?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:05): I thank the honourable member for his question and his longstanding interest in this area, and as a frequent visitor to many Aboriginal communities around South Australia.

As many members would be aware, Narungga country stretches across the Yorke Peninsula and, for more than 20 years, the Narungga people have been engaged in proceedings to have their native title recognised over their country. It was a distinct privilege to attend a special sitting of the Federal Court on country at Point Pearce last week to finally resolve proceedings in relation to native title for the Narungga people.

The Narungga determination area covers almost 12,000 square kilometres of the Yorke Peninsula, as well as stretching seaward and including Wardang Island and satellite islands. The lands and waters included in the determination area are, and always have been, of huge significance to Narungga people. As part of the consent determination process, evidence was provided to the court of the long connections between Narungga ancestors and the Yorke Peninsula, predating colonisation. This included expert anthropological evidence as well as the evidence of members of the Narungga claim group. The Narungga people have continued to practise hunting and fishing activities post-colonisation.

It was significant that the consent determination was heard at Point Pearce. This site was established as a mission in 1868 and, in the years that followed, many Aboriginal people and families from right across the state were brought there. Point Pearce is therefore of significance for many Aboriginal South Australians and plays a role in many families' histories. In 1972, Point Pearce was transferred to the Aboriginal Lands Trust, and it is now the Narungga people who oversee the running of the community through the Point Pearce Aboriginal Community Council.

For the consent determination, the Federal Court sat on country at the Point Pearce school. We were Welcomed to Country by Milania and Kytanna Buckskin, with Professor Irabinna Rigney taking on the role of the master of ceremonies for the proceedings. As Attorney-General, I had the privilege of making submissions on behalf of the state and agreeing to the consent determination. Following the conclusion of the formal proceedings, we also heard from Narungga elders, including Aunty Claudia Smith, Uncle Kevin O'Loughlin, as well as applicant John Buckskin and Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation Chair Anne Newchurch.

In addition to the consent orders made by the Federal Court, the state government and the Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation are also entering into a settlement Indigenous Land Use Agreement. This is significant as the very first Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) signed in South Australia was, I understand, with the Narungga Nation some decades ago.

The new ILUA will provide certainty in relation to the validity of a number of existing interests in the determination area and will also provide a simpler process for the state to engage with the native title holders in relation to future activities that will affect the determined native title rights. The settlement ILUA will also resolve, by agreement, compensation for past impairment of native title by the state in a manner which provides both financial and other benefits for the Narungga people.

The consent determination marked an important day for Narungga people and an important step on the journey towards reconciliation. I would like to thank all those, particularly from the Narungga Nation but also from the state, from local councils, from companies, and from the federal government for this outcome that has been in the process for some two decades and look forward to working with the Narungga Nation in the years ahead on this and many other matters.