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Farrer on behalf of the Ngarrawanji Native Title Claim Group v State of Western Australia [2019] FCA 655

Binomial Name: Federal Court of Australia
Date: 21 May 2019
Sub Category:Consent Determination (Native Title Act)

East Kimberley Region

State/Country:Western Australia, Australia

The determination area covers approx 4,065.8319 sq km, covering Moola Bulla Pastoral Lease, including Ngarrawanji (also known as Mount Barrett). For a detailed description of the area and maps see Schedule 1, Attachment B and Attachment C, attached below under documents. The area is within the jurisdiction of the Halls Creek Shire Council. 

Legal Status:

Registered on the Native Title Register on 28 April 2022

Legal Reference: Federal Court file no.: WAD41/2019; National Native Title Tribunal file no.: WCD2019/004 and WC1996/075
Alternative Names:
  • Ngarrawanji Part A
  • Subject Matter:Native Title
    Summary Information:

    Between Josephine Farrer, Matt Dawson, Phyllis Wallaby, Marty Stevens, Mark Bin Bakar and Gregory Donald Tait (Applicants) and State of Western Australia (First Respondent) Telstra Corporation Limited (Second Respondent) and Shire of Halls Creek (Third Respondent)

    Judge: Mortimer J


    Native title exists in parts of the determination area

    It consists of exclusive and non-exclusive native title rights and interests.

    Native title holders

    The native title holders are people related (including by adoption) to one of the apical ancestors who held rights and interests in one of the local estate countries or are connected to ngarrawanji apical ancestors through spirit connections/and or birth sites or are recognised by the native titled holders as holding rights and responsibilities to the area.

    Exclusive native title rights and interests over part of the determination area

    This is the right to possession, occupation, use, and enjoyment of the area described in Schedule 3, to the exclusion of all others.

    Non-exclusive native title rights and interests over part of the determination area

    These rights and interests exist over the area described in Schedule 4 and include:

    The right to have access to, remain in and use that part, which includes but is not

    • access and move freely through and within that part;
    • enter and remain on, camp and erect temporary shelters and
      other structures in order to live on that part;
    • light controlled contained fires but not for the clearance of vegetation;
    • to engage in cultural activities in that part, including the transmission of
      cultural heritage knowledge; and
    • to hold meetings in that part

    The right to access and take for any purpose the resources on that part, which

    • to access and take water, other than water which is lawfully captured or
      controlled by the holders of pastoral leases.

    The right to protect places, areas and sites of traditional significance on that part,
    which includes to:

    • conduct and participate in ceremonies in that part;
    • conduct burials and burial rites and other ceremonies in relation to death
      in that part; and
    • visit, maintain and protect from physical harm, areas, places and sites of
      importance in that part.

    The right to be accompanied onto the Determination Area by any persons who, the native title holders may invite pursuant to traditional law and custom, being:

    • spouses or partners of the native title holders; and
    • persons who may assist with the performance of ceremonies or cultural activities, including sharing of knowledge about country

    Other rights and interests in the determination area include:

    There are no native title rights and
    interests in the Determination Area in or in relation to: 

    • minerals as defined in the Mining Act 1904 (WA) (repealed) and the Mining Act
    • petroleum as defined in the Petroleum Act 1936 (WA) (repealed) and the Petroleum
      and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967
    • geothermal energy resources and geothermal energy as defined in the Petroleum
      and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967
      (WA); or
    • water lawfully captured by the holders of Other Interests

    except the right to take and use ochre to the extent that ochre is not a mineral pursuant to
    the Mining Act 1904 (WA).

    See Schedule 5 and Schedule 8 for further information about the non-native title rights and interests. 

    In the case of conflict, the exercise of non-native title rights and interests will prevail over the non-exclusive native title

    Within 12 months of the order the common law native title holders are required to indicate whether their native title rights are to be held in a trust and by which body corporate. 

    Full text of the determination is available via the URL link above.

    Detailed Information:


    This claim was first filed on 25 June 1996 pursuant to s 61
    of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA). The claim was also entered on the Native Title
    Register on that date. As only 2 of the original 11 applicant members remained alive,
    after a November 2018 authorisation meeting and successful application to the court, the applicant was replaced with a newly constituted applicant [11] [12] [13].

    State's agreement to the determination was based on a review of an expert
    report provided by Dr Redmond (Anthropologist's Connection Report for three
    adjacent native title claims in the central east Kimberley region: Ngarrawanji
    WAD 6017 of 1998), and an affidavit from Mr Greg Tait, a member of the newly
    constituted applicant [22].

    Two areas of unallocated crown land were separated from this application after both parties agreed that the claim would be determined in two parts [17]. This determination covers the Part A area. The Part B area is covered in Farrer on behalf of the Ngarrawanji Native Title Claim Group v State of Western Australian [2020] FCA 929.

    In the Part B determination, Justice Mortimer noted "it is notorious that the treatment of Aboriginal people at Moola Bulla station is a shameful aspect of post sovereignty history in the East Kimberley" [1]. This treatment was discussed in a landline special where a survivor Charlie Yeeda asserted having " seen white people tie them in a tree, flog them with a greenhide rope. Real cruelty, you know, very cruel" (Lee, 2012). 

    At the celebrations for the outcome of the claim, Greg Tait, an applicant for the claim, said "today we walk away with a clear mind and a clear heart. We got here and we should all be very proud of that. All the old people and the spirits will be very proud to see us and our kids today" (Kimberley Land Council, 2019). 

    This was the first of three claims heard over a three day period, which determined that native existed over 93.5% of the Kimberley. This is an area bigger than the size of Belgium (Kimberley Land Council, 2019). Kimberley land council's chief executive officer, Nolan Hunter, praised the determinations, however, raised issues with the process in that it re-traumatises people as people need to discuss how they were forcibly removed from the area or lived under the cruel conditions at the station (Kimberley Land Council,2019). He questioned whether there was a less traumatic and divisive way as the current "native title process forces people to disclose deeply personal and sensitive information to prove their connection to country" (Kimberley Land Council, 2019).

    Details of Judgment

    In May 2019, the Ngarrawanji claim group and the State were able to inform the Court of their agreed terms for a
     determination of native title. Justice Mortimer
    was satisfied that the requirements of s 87A of the NTA
     (Cth) had been met and made the
    determination that native title existed over only part of the land and waters subject
    to the application.

    Justice Mortimer noted that it had taken more than 20 years for this application to be resolved with a tragic consequence that many elders of the the Ngarrawanji claim group, who were important to establishing the claim and securing an agreement, had not lived to see the determination [2]. Justice Mortimer highlighted "the tolerance and persistence of the Ngarrawanji claim group members in this respect comes on top of, or in addition to, the many other obstacles which have faced Aboriginal people and their communities since non-Indigenous people came to this land" [49].

    Justice Mortimer discussed the importance of this land to the Aboriginal people, especially Ngarrawanji (Mount Barrett) and its connection to Eagle Hawk dreaming [1], [30]. 

    Justice Mortimer was satisfied that the authorisation process was pursuant to s 66B of the NTA [15].


    Native Title exists in part of the determination area

    Related Entries

  • Farrer on behalf of the Ngarrawanji Native Title Claim Group v State of Western Australia [2020] FCA 929
  • Organisation
  • National Native Title Tribunal
  • Telstra Corporation Limited - Respondent
  • State of Western Australia - Respondent
  • Shire of Halls Creek - Respondent
  • Kimberley Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
  • Ngarrawanji Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC
  • Legislation
  • Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)
  • Native Title Amendment Act 1998 (Cth)
  • Native Title (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Regulations 1999 (Cth)
  • Mining Act 1978 (WA)
  • Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (WA)
  • Mining Act 1904 (WA)
  • People
  • Ngarrawanji Native Title Claim Group - Native Title Claimant
  • Josephine Farrer & others on behalf of the Ngarrawanji Native Title Claim Group - Native Title Applicant

  • References

    General Reference
    Tim Lee (2012) Special Treatment
    Hannah Cross (May 2019) Securing native title gives people authority - the Kimberley set to be 93.5% determined
    Kimberley Land Council (May 2019) Historic week of three Kimberley native title determinations


    Extract from the National Native Title Register for WCD2019/004 as at 28/06/2022 (Ngarrawanji Part A) - ( PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF)


    Native Title (Australia) | National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) (Australia) | Native Title Registers | Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Australia) | Applicant | Respondent | Consent Determination (Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)) (Australia) | Aboriginal Corporation (Australia) | Native Title Applicants | Native Title Holders (Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)) (Australia) | Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) (Australia)

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