The Kurtijar people of the Gulf of Carpentaria are celebrating a victory after nearly ten years of fighting for native title over the area their ancestors had inhabited for thousands of years. The Kurtijar people’s non-exclusive native title rights to more than 1.2 million hectares of land, extending from the east of Normanton to Yagoonya in the north-west, were recognised by the Federal Court this week. The Miranda Downs pastoral station is located within the region. Stanbroke Pastoral Company had the lease on the land in 2019 when the case was in court. Hughes Holdings has since gained control of the station. The Kurtijar people now have access to the area to fish, hunt, camp, take resources, light fires for cultural purposes, have meetings, and live there thanks to the native title.
Former Carpentaria Shire Council mayor and Kurtijar traditional owner Fred Pascoe remarked, “We’ve been kept out of this country for up to 50, 60 years.” There are numerous major spiritual locations and graveyards there. Only stockmen who have worked on the stations and who were given the tales by their uncles, fathers, or grandfathers have allowed us to preserve some of the legends associated with this location. The victory, according to Mr. Pascoe, was bittersweet because the previous nine years had dragged on. He said, “We lost a lot of old individuals along the way.” It’s unfortunate that they were unable to witness yesterday, the culmination of all our work. “We are happy to have prevailed in the decision. Although a lot of this delay and time and expense could have been avoided.”
He claimed that going back on their property is like coming home after having been away for a long time. The connection to that nation has been severed for the past 50 years, according to Mr. Pascoe, even though this area has been the home of our people for tens of thousands of years. “It has been a protracted and costly conflict. It is a rare victory when white people, including a white judge, are persuaded of Aboriginal land rights, and we can now enjoy this victory for many generations to come.” Even if legal processes strained relations with pastoralists, Mr. Pascoe claimed that his people were driven to cooperate with station owners.
“We must now collaborate with these businesses. We absolutely respect their right to do so because we ourselves are pastoralists. They have a right to run a pastoral enterprise on that area.” “All we ask is that we be treated with the same respect as you.” Mr. Pascoe stated that he would want to see more ranger initiatives started to aid with land management. He said, “Actually, that would be a big gain for the pastoralists. The land and sea rangers who we currently employ in collaboration with the Carpentaria Land Council are very helpful in managing weeds, feral animals, and other issues. “We’d like to continue mapping the cultural sites, protecting significant sites and have that knowledge enshrined so that for my great, great, great grandkids, that information is still there,” he said.