Widi People of the Nebo Estate #2 Native Title Consent Determination

June 29, 2016 at 5:00 PM

On 29 June 2016, the Federal Court recognised the Widi People’s non-exclusive native title rights and interests over land and waters of approximately 4 square kilometres of Widi country and approximately 530 square kilometres of shared country between the Widi People and the Barada Barna People.  The Consent Determination was heard in Moranbah on Barada Barna Country where Justice Dowsett delivered his reasons for recognising native title in a joint hearing, addressing three native title claims by consent determination of the Widi Peoples, the Barada Barna Peoples and the Widi and Barada Barna Peoples over shared country.   

The Widi #2 claim was lodged in July 2013 and covered part of an area that Barada Barna claimed was their country.  This resulted in a number of legal issues that needed to be addressed by both the Widi People and the Barada Barna People. Federal Court Justice Dowsett initially was of the opinion that the complexities needed to be dealt with at trial as opposed to consent determination. 

The Widi People negotiated with the State of Queensland, Central Highlands, Isaac and Mackay Regional Councils, Ergon Energy, Telstra Corporation, SunWater and a number of mining companies and pastoralists.  Most importantly however, they negotiated with the neighbouring Barada Barna People to reach agreement about shared country and about their respective native title rights and interests in that area.  To the merit of all involved, through hard work and negotiation, the Court was convinced that native title could be determined by consent and so, the need for a trial was dismissed.

The Federal Court recognised that Widi People (and Barada Barna People) continue to practice and observe traditional laws and customs through the exercise of native title rights including the right to access, hunt, fish and gather; take, use, share and exchange natural resources; conduct ceremonies; and maintain places of importance, amongst other things.  Justice Dowsett stated “..I have come to recognise, on behalf of all Australians, that they [Widi People] are the traditional owners of this land pursuant to traditional laws and customs which have their roots in ancient times.  I now recognise that traditional ownership.  In doing so, I bind all people for all time…”

The Widi People were warmly welcomed by the Barada Barna People and shared a celebratory luncheon together on the day.  The Widi People also held their own celebrations the following day in Mackay, where the Elders and Applicants (past and present) were acknowledged and thanked for their hard work and commitment to securing native title recognition over Widi country.  The Widi People paid their respect to the many Widi People who have been lost on this very long journey of securing native title for all Widi People into the future.  

The Widi People established the Gangali Narra Widi Aboriginal Corporation to manage their native title rights and are working towards their objectives.  Widi Applicant and Native Title Holder Mr Graham Sauney stated that “having native title gave the Widi people the opportunity to continue to work as a society on their own country.  It will protect our values and give us an opportunity for economic development and employment and training for our people”.

The Widi People still have the bulk of their country to secure and continue to work with the North Queensland Land Council to secure native title recognition over the remainder of their Country.  

Author: Jasmin Phillips, NQLC Legal Officer