After a decade long legal battle, members of a West Australian indigenous community, the Yawuru community, have proven that they are the traditional owners of Broome, the world renowned tourist town, and the surrounding countryside.
14 Feb 2006 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2015 - 11:43 AM

Federal Court Judge Ronald Merkel said the Yawuru community had the connection, required by the Native Title Act, to land and waters in their claim area, in an interim ruling on the Rubibi claim.

"While there may have been an evolution of traditional laws and customs, the Yawuru community observes a body of traditional laws and customs, which have normative content and which have continued in existence from prior to the time of sovereignty to the present time," Judge Merkel said.

"The rights and interests possessed by the Yawuru community are communal native title rights."

Judge Merkel recognised the Yawuru community's traditional ownership of the claim area, which covers more than 6,000 square kilometres of mostly reserves and pastoral leases as well as Broome - home of the world-famous Cable Beach.

The judge has yet to rule on which of parts of the claim areas will have native title extinguished. A decision is expected in April.

Relief

Kimberley Land Council executive director Wayne Bergmann said the community was relieved its 10- year legal battle for native title recognition was over.

"There is a sense of relief, excitement and gratitude that there has been finally formal acknowledgment after traveling down a very difficult road," Mr Bergmann said.

"I think it was a really painful process for people to reveal themselves in a court and be cross examined and questioned about personal aspects of their lives and as to their credibility and so on."

The Rubibi claim had struggled for resources to keep going and had faced legal battles from minority interests along the way, Mr Bergmann said.

"In the middle of all this there has been, because of development pressure in Broome, every person trying to compete for Rubibi's attention to get their priority development projects up and running."

Land released from the claim, for redevelopment in Broome, included residential areas and a tract of land for an Aged Care facility, he said.