In Western Australia, a federal court judge has ruled that the Noongar indigenous people are the traditional owners of Perth and its surrounds and their native title continues to exist in the area.
19 Sep 2006 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2015 - 12:16 PM

Eighty Noongar people, represented by the South-West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC), lodged the Single Noongar native title claim in the federal court in September 2003.

The claim is one of the nation's largest and covers 193,956 square kilometres, from Hopetoun in the south to north of Jurien Bay.

Federal Court judge Justice Murray Wilcox today said the Noongar people were the traditional owners of the whole claim area, excluding offshore islands.

"I have reached the conclusion that the Single Noongar applicants are correct in claiming that, in 1829, the laws and customs governing land throughout the whole claim area were those of a single community," Justice Wilcox told the court.

Justice Wilcox ruled the Noongar people continue to have native title of more than 6000 square kilometres, covering Perth and its

The ruling means Noongar people can now exercise native title rights over land where native title has not been extinguished by "legislative or executive acts" such as freehold land.

Justice Wilcox said the Noongar people, against the odds, had maintained their culture and customs since European settlement.

They continue to teach their children the Noongar language, and many are taught traditional skills such as hunting and fishing, he said.

They also maintain a connection with their traditional spiritual beliefs.

"I have concluded that the contemporary Noongar community acknowledges and observes laws and customs relating to land which are a recognisable adaptation to their situation of laws and customs existing at the date of settlement," he said.

"But for any question of extinguishment of native title ... native title still exists in relation to the whole of the land and waters in the area of the separate proceeding, other than off-shore islands and land and waters below the low-water mark," he said.

More than 100 Noongar people and their supporters cheered as Justice Wilcox read out his decision in court.

Justice Wilcox did not rule on native title in the rest of the claim area.

South-West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council chief executive Glen Kelly said the decision was a long overdue recognition of the Noongar people's identity.

Mr Kelly called on the WA government to now join the Noongar people in negotiating native title over the rest of the claim area, rather than continuing with litigation.