Central Land Council director David Ross today welcomed the Full Federal Court decision which upholds native title rights for the Alyawarr, Kaytetye, Warumungu and Wakay people near Tennant Creek.

“The Federal Court has substantially upheld Justice Mansfield’s original decision. Importantly, native title holders around Australia have won the right to live on and protect sacred sites on pastoral land,” said Mr Ross.

“While it is mainly a technical legal decision, it reinforces the initial victory for the native title holders who lodged their application 10 years ago to ensure their native title rights and interests were protected in the Davenport Murchison Ranges.

“The decision means strong rights in country will continue to be recognised and native title holders can continue their role in negotiating joint management of the national park.”

“The Davenport Murchison native title holders can be rightfully proud that recognition of the ceremonies and ground paintings they shared with Justice Mansfield to show strong connection to country has not been diminished. It is just a shame that 10 years have passed since the original application and a number of the key witnesses have now passed away,” said Mr Ross.

The Central Land Council lodged a native title application on behalf of native title holders in 1995 over land south-east of Tennant Creek, including the proposed Davenport Murchison National Park and the historic township of Hatches Creek.

The application was heard by Justice Mansfield “on-country” in September 2000 and his decision was handed down in 2004. The Northern Territory Government subsequently appealed on 55 separate grounds which were heard by the Full Court of the Federal Court in Darwin in November 2004.

As a result of the Full Federal Court decision, the native title holders keep rights to hunt and live on the land and continue to practice cultural and ceremonial activities.