A BUOYANT crowd of 250 turned up to a federal court on-country sitting in the small central Queensland town of Theodore today to recognise the Wulli Wulli people as the traditional owners of their country.
This is the first self-funded native title claim in the region and covers just under 5500 square kilometres and includes the towns of Theodore, Cracow, pastoral properties, Precipice and Isla Gorge National Parks, state forests and section of the Dawson River.
Banana Shire Council Mayor Ron Carige said the decision gave security to the Wulli Wulli people over sacred sites and significant areas.
“The fact is it brings us closer together as council and Wulli Wulli with how we go forth on projects – they will need to be consulted,” he said.
As part of the determination, the Wulli Wulli people have entered into Indigenous Land Use Agreements with pastoral lease holders, Ergon Energy, Banana Shire Council and the State Government in respect to Precipice and Isla Gorge National Parks.
Under these agreements, they will access and use of some of the pastoral stations and national parks.
The crowd, leaving the official ceremony and making their way to the showgrounds for speeches and lunch, were in a celebratory mood, Cr Carige said.
“Everyone is very elated of course. It is a special day not just for the Wulli Wulli people but also for Council as it’s the first agreement we have had in our shire and it’s a big day for Theodore.”
Des Dodd, the last remaining applicant of those who started the claim, said the determination was a tribute to the strength of his Elders and people.
“This is a historic day for all Wulli Wulli people. I only wish that some of our Elders who are no longer with us could have lived to see this.”
Artefacts recorded within the claim area indicate Aboriginal people have occupied it for at least 10,000 years.
Following European settlement, Wulli Wulli people remained on their land by working on the earliest stations in the region, including Caboon, Waldoon and Cracow pastoral runs.
Cr Carige said a number of landholders he spoke to this morning recognised this long history with the Wulli Wulli people and viewed this as another partnership.
“When I stood around talking with landholders and Wulli Wulli people, they were talking about their grandparents who had worked together so there is a shared history,” he said.
Applicant Drew Millar, a descendant of Johnny Nipps who discovered gold in Cracow in 1916, said it was pleasing to see his ancestor at last being recognised as a traditional owner of his land.
“It’s important for Wulli Wulli people to be recognised through this determination,” he said.
“Our ancestors worked hard for little or no pay. This is a step towards reconciliation.”