NT Chief Minister Clare Martin and Barkly MLA Elliot McAdam congratulate native title holders Francine McCarthy and Pat Brahim

In September 2007 Tennant Creek became the first town in Australia to have a native title determination made by consent rather than litigation.

Justice Mansfield of the Federal Court handed down his determination at a special sitting of the court in Tennant Creek and an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) was signed immediately after the Federal Court’s determination.

The ILUA between the Northern Territory Government and the native title holders allows for native title recognition as well as extinguishment and compensation over some areas and enables native title issues to be dealt with over the entire town. It will benefit some 200 Warumungu native title holders from the Patta estate group.

CLC Director David Ross congratulated the native title holders and the Northern Territory Government for their common sense in coming to an agreement.

“There have been no lengthy and costly court battles and a consent determination and an ILUA forged with goodwill is the best outcome anyone could expect from the native title process,” Mr Ross said.

“The ILUA recognises that past acts may have extinguished native title and allows large areas of the town to develop without any further negotiation – there are 100 residential and 60 industrial allotments which have been dealt with by agreement,” he said.   

“In return, the Patta Aboriginal people finally get Aboriginal freehold title to certain land, including Kunjarra or the Devils Pebbles which is an extremely significant site to them.

“While they already have NT freehold title, they want the area scheduled as Aboriginal land to protect it against mining activity which has caused such immense damage and distress to the custodians in the past.

“The native title holders have agreed to enter good-faith negotiations regarding the management arrangements for Kunjarra and they have guaranteed that visitors will continue to enjoy free access to the area,” he said.

“Compensation for native title holders will also give them an educational trust fund for the benefit of Aboriginal school students in the town, some residential and industrial blocks in Tennant Creek and support for the prescribed body corporate – the Patta Aboriginal Corporation –  which will act on behalf of the native title holders in the future,“ Mr Ross said.

Mr Ross paid tribute to the many claimants who passed away during the process.

“Many of them fought in the Warumungu Land Claim and went on to fight for justice within the township. They spent a good part of their lives battling so that the young people of Tennant Creek today can enjoy a better future,” Mr Ross said.