Native Title holders of Gulf Region pastoral leases celebrate at last

Date: Sep 20, 2021

Publication Type: Blog

Subject: Newspaper

On 29 June, Justice White of the Federal Court of Australia made determinations of native title, by consent, for land and waters subject to the Lorella pastoral lease and former Nathan River and Billengarrah pastoral leases.

LOCATED 600km south-east of Darwin on the Gulf of Carpentaria, the former Billengarrah and Nathan River pastoral leases now form part of the Limmen National Park. The following groups’ native title rights and interests were recognised across these three areas: Burdal Riley; Murrungun Wunubari; Mambali Walangara; Wurdaliya Garambarini; Mambali Nangguya; Guyal Manaburra; Burdal Mingkanyi; Munnungun Baluganda/ Langgabany; Mambali Ngubayin; and Rrumburriya Ngurrmu/Jawuma.

For two decades these groups have been seeking to have their native title rights and interests recognised.

“The NLC congratulate the native title holders of the areas underlying Lorella pastoral lease and former Billengarrah and Nathan River pastoral leases,” said NLC Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi. 

This is the first time in the NT that a generic formulation of native title has been recognised over a national park, whereby native title rights and interests prevail over the interests of the national park, in the event of inconsistency. A spokesperson for the native title holders said they look forward to working with the NT Government to manage and care for the Limmen National Park. 

In respect of the Lorella pastoral lease, which is subject to a significant tourism operation, the determination of native title provides the native title holders with a greater opportunity to participate in conversations about country. 

A number of senior native title holders had planned to travel from Borroloola, Minyerri, Ngukurr and Numbulwar to attend the determinations in person but due to the Covid-19 restrictions this was not possible and Justice White made the determinations of native title via video-link. 

During the video session he commended the native title holders for their “strong cultural knowledge, hard work and resilience” that led to the determinations of native title. These determinations of native title recognise that these groups have always had, and still have, a special relationship with and rights in the land subject to the Lorella Pastoral Lease and former Billengarrah and Nathan River pastoral leases.