Mulardy, on behalf of the Birriman-gan Native Title Claim Group v State of Western Australia [2019] FCA 2119

Binomial Name: Federal Court of Australia
Date: 19 December 2019
Sub Category:Consent Determination (Native Title Act)

South East of Broome, in the Gingerah region in the local government area of Broome.

State/Country:Western Australia, Australia

The area covers roughly 2,191.71 square kilometres, between the Edgar Ranges and Broome.

Legal Status:

Not registered as of 15 December 2021

Legal Reference: Federal Court file no.: WAD541/18; National Native Title Tribunal file no.: WCD19/107.
Alternative Names:
  • Birriman-gan
  • Subject Matter:Native Title
    Summary Information:

    Between: Mervyn Mulardy, Trent Marshall, Shirley Spratt, Rene Hopiga, Del Roe, Brendan Charles, Linda Nardea, Deborah Shadforth, Thomas Edgar, Neil McKenzie, Roslyn Dixon, Dianne Appleby (Applicant) and State of Western Australia, Roe Oil (Canning) Pty Limited (correction: Roc Oil Pty Limited) and Buru Energy Limited (Respondents)

    Judge: Banks-Smith J


    Native title exists in all of the determination area

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

    Native title holders

    Native title is held by persons who are:

    • members of the Karajarri people by cognate descent, or identify as Karajarri and accepted as such by the Karajarri;
    • members of the Yawuru people who are descendants of Nyobing Babere and others named in Schedule 4. This also includes those grown up by Yawuru people as members of the Yawuru community according to traditional customs, and other Aboriginal persons who possess high cultural knowledge and responsibilities in regards to the claim area and were born in or have a long-term physical relationship with the area, who self-identify as Yawuru and are generally accepted by the community as Yawuru.
    • and Nyikina people who are descendants of Karlmurl and others named in Schedule 4.

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

    This is the right to possession, occupation, use, and enjoyment of the area, described in Schedule 4, as against all others.

    For clarity, the rights in relation to water in any watercourse, wetland or underground water source as defined in the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (WA) is the non-exclusive right to take, use and enjoy that water.

    There are no native title rights in the determination area in relation to:

    • minerals as defined in the Mining Act 1904 (WA) (repealed) and the Mining Act 1978 (WA);
    • petroleum as defined in the Petroleum Act 1936 (WA) (repealed) and the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (WA);
    • geothermal energy resources and geothermal energy as defined in the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (WA); or
    • except the right to take and use ochre to the extent that ochre is not a mineral pursuant to the Mining Act 1904 (WA).

    Other rights and interests in the determination area include:

    The following exploration licences granted under the Mining Act 1978 (WA):

    • Exploration Licence E04/2540 granted 3 October 2019;
    • Exploration Licence E04/2554 granted on 3 October 2019.

    The following Tenement's granted under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (WA):

    • Exploration Permit EP 391 R3 granted on 7 January 2015;
    • Petroleum Product Licence L 20 granted on 2 July 2015;
    • Petroleum Product Licence L 21 granted on 2 July 2015;
    • Petroleum Special Prospecting Authority SPA 29 AO granted 8 November 2018.

    Also, the Pipeline PL 109 granted 4 June 2015 under the Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969 (WA).

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

    The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation is the prescribed body corporate to perform the functions required under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

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

    Detailed Information:


    On 24 October 2012, a native title determination application was filed on behalf of the Karajarri People over the area of four production licence applications made under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (WA). The Karajarri Yanja application was in the north-eastern corner of an area of unallocated Crown land that lay between the Karajarri determined areas to the south, the Nyikina Mangala determined area to the east and the Rubibi determined area to the north and west [6].

    The Birriman‑gan application was filed on 22 November 2018 on behalf of the Karajarri people, the Nyikina people and the Yawuru people. The area covered by the Birriman‑gan application was the area of unallocated Crown land to the south and west of the Karajarri Yanja application [7].

    The Birriman-gan application came after consultations with Traditional Owners over a period of several years, and an authorisation meeting in 2018 (Kimberley Land Council, 2019).

    On 24 May 2019 the Court made an order combining the Karajarri Yanja application with the Birriman‑gan application, with both applications continuing in and under the Birriman‑gan application. The Birriman‑gan application was amended by consent to give effect to the combination order, and was filed on 6 June 2019 [8].

    Karajarri Traditional Owner Mervyn Mulardy said that collaboration between the three groups who make up the applicants is important: "We each have very important cultural ties to this country. We donít have borders, our stories about country overlap each other and are shared" (Kimberley Land Council, 2019).

    Details of Judgment

    Banks-Smith J included the applicants summary of their connection to country:

    "In the Birriman‑gan Determination area, the Dreaming is called bugarigara. Yawuru, Karajarri and Nyikina peoples hold a common belief in bugarigara - the term is the same in each language - and there is documented evidence of this common belief in specific bugarigara.

    At sovereignty, all three language groups adhered to a common belief in bugarigara. This belief in bugarigara provides the fundamental basis to other facets of traditional society which express themselves in the Birriman‑gan Determination area. The bugarigara identified within the Determination Area journeys through the named site of birimanngany (from which the claim name is derived) which infuses the Yawuru, Karajarri and Nyikina languages into the country of the Determination area"

    The court noted that the State had played an active role in negotiations. The State was satisfied that the material provided "is sufficient to evidence the maintenance of connection according to traditional laws and customs in the determination area" [28].

    The court found that the requirements of s 87(1)(c) of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) were met for the following reasons:

    • the period specified in the notice given under s 66 of the Native Title Act has ended: 87(1);
    • an agreement was reached between the parties on the terms of an order of the Federal Court in relation to the proceedings and the terms of the agreement, in writing signed by or on behalf of the parties, were filed with the Court: s 87(1)(c) and (b);
    • the Court was satisfied that an order in, or consistent with, those terms would be within the power of the Court s 87(1)(c);
    • it appears appropriate to the Court to make the orders sought: s 87(1A) and s 87(2) [22].

    Banks-Smith J noted that "[t]he continued work and determination to pursue and finalise this claim is to be admired. This is an important cultural and legal milestone" [34].


    Native title exists in the entire determination area.

    Related Entries

  • National Native Title Tribunal
  • Kimberley Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
  • State of Western Australia - Respondent
  • Buru Energy Limited - Respondent
  • Roc Oil (Canning) Pty Limited - Respondent
  • Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation
  • Legislation
  • Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)
  • Native Title Amendment Act 1998 (Cth)
  • Native Title (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Regulations 1999 (Cth)
  • Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (WA)
  • Mining Act 1904 (WA)
  • Mining Act 1978 (WA)
  • Petroleum Act 1936 (WA)
  • Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (WA)
  • Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969 (WA)
  • People
  • Mervyn Mulardy and Others - Applicant
  • Place
  • Shire of Broome

  • References

    General Reference
    Kimberly Land Council (2019) Traditional Owners welcome native title determination over joint determination area


    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)