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Land claim ruling a long time coming

Tuesday, 17th February, 2015

By Erica Visser

For Gerald Quayle, a native title ruling for land stretching across the far west and beyond has been a long time coming.

The Barkindji man has invested 18 years in the claim that could see his people awarded rights for almost 130,000 square kilometres of land reaching from the Victorian border around the far west to Wanaaring, 1000km south of Queensland.

Mr Quayle, a tour guide at Mutawintji National Park, now anxiously awaits a federal court verdict scheduled for June.

“We’ve been in this area for over 40,000 years. It would mean a lot in the way of being recognised as a group and as the traditional people of the land and maybe give us a better say in how our land, and in particular, our river should be managed,” Mr Quayle said.

“We’re just a small minority of the Australian population and with this would come great joy for the people and it would also be a stepping stone for our rights.

“If we do get these land rights we don’t want to come onto anybody else’s land and say ‘This is our land’; we want to walk with the people.”

During the process, which began when the original claim was lodged in 1997, Mr Quayle had submitted documentation on a number of occasions to prove his connection with the land.

“I’ve put in affidavits to the NSW Native Title Corporation and documented evidence of my great-grandmother’s birth place near Louth,” Mr Quayle said.

“I became aware of this claim in 1997 when I saw it on the front page of the Barrier Daily Truth. Only one family was involved then and they needed more to justify it.

“We didn’t think it would take this long. The people that first put the claim in weren’t experienced enough in government policy, so it was put in quite hastily.

“There’s been a lot of consultation and a lot of backwards and forwards.”

If successful, the land title was not expected to impact on mining or pastoral operations.

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