The families of striking Wave Hill Station workers will celebrate the recognition of their native title rights at Jinbarak, the old homestead of the famous pastoral property tomorrow.
The station near Kalkaringi was the site of the 1966 Wave Hill Walk Off, the strike led by Gurindji stockmen Vincent Lingiari, Billy Bunter and others that marks the beginning of the land rights movement.
Justice White will hand down a non-exclusive native title consent determination over an area of approximately 5,492 square kilometres during a Federal Court sitting at Jinbarak at 11:30 am.
Many of the older native title holders from the Jamangku [ja – MUN – ku], Japuwuny [ja – PU – wun], Parlakuna-Palkinykarni [parla – KU – na PAL – kin – karni] and Yilyilyimawu [il-yi-yi-MA-wu] land holding groups and their families worked on Wave Hill Station, formerly part of the Vestey cattle empire.
“I was born on Wave Hill Station. It means everything to me and my family,” said native title holder Pauline Ryan.
“I was in the walk off in 1966. I remember that day. My stepfather, mother and grandpa were there too.”
“My uncle and grandpa and grandma passed away here. We bring our young kids here to talk about their memory. I was working here when I was 10 or 11. I was a cleaner. I never went to school.”
The station workers were exploited and shifted around from station to station and across state and territory borders but maintained a strong history of songlines, and connection to their traditional lands.
The composition of new songs is a living cultural tradition, and the native title holders share law and customs, as well as the Gurindji, Mudburra and Warlpiri languages.
Francine McCarthy, the CLC’s manager of native title, said the determination recognises their rights to hunt, gather and teach on the land and waters and to conduct cultural activities and ceremonies.
“It gives them the right to negotiate exploration and mining agreements, but unlike on Aboriginal land, they have no veto right,” she said.
Native title holder Matthew Algy said he and his family were happy about the determination.
“It’s important to the legacy of the old people who worked here. I’m carrying on in my father’s footsteps, he was a stockman and I am a stockman. I was born on New Wave Hill Station, I’ve worked here [Wave Hill Station] like my father did.”
The CLC lodged the native title application in November 2016, in response to mining interests in the pastoral lease area.
The native title holders will exercise their rights through their prescribed body corporate, the Jinparrak Aboriginal Corporation, while Wave Hill Station will continue to operate as a cattle station.