A decision to award a multi-million dollar payout to a group of Traditional Owners in the top end has been appealed by the Northern Territory Government.
20 Sep 2016 - 6:52 PM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2016 - 11:18 AM

Last month, the Ngaliwurru and Nungali people of Timber Creek, six hundred kilometres south of Darwin, were awarded 3.3 million dollars in compensation for the extinguishment of their native title rights.

The NT Government is appealing the decision on the grounds that the methodology used to determine the payout did not have clear enough guidelines.

Federal court judge John Mansfield recently found in favour of claimants acting for the Ngaliwurru and Nungali people from Timber Creek.

Justice Mansfield said that the dispossession had caused anxiety, hurt and shame among Traditional Owners, and that they were entitled to have their property rights vindicated. 

The decision could establish a legal precedent for billions of dollars in liability payouts by states, territories to Aboriginal peoples who suffered loss of native title due to actions by government and lessees.

While the Northern Territory government has accepted some aspects of the decision, it is appealing the methodology which determined the costs – amounting to $3,300,261, including $512,000 for the economic value of the extinguished rights, more than $1.48m in interest, and another $1.3m for pain and suffering.

Here's exactly why millions were awarded to NT Indigenous custodians by the Federal Court
We take a deeper look into the Timber Creek case, the first ever judgment to award compensation to traditional landowners for the loss of their native title land-rights.

Under the Native Title Act, Indigenous Australians can claim a range of native title land rights if they can prove an ongoing connection to the land. These rights can be lost if freehold title or leases have been granted on the land, a mechanism which protects farmers and property-owners.

Under the legislation, Traditional Owners are able to claim compensation from authorities for dispossession.

In the case of Timber Creek, the government built a concrete bridge over traditional dreaming sites and a water-tank on an important storyline area.

Full Judgment: Griffiths v Northern Territory of Australia (No 3) [2016] FCA 900
The full text of the historic native title damages judgment by Justice John Mansfield in the Federal Court.

“Aboriginal people don’t like it, they get angry,” Alan Griffiths told the court.

His son, Chris Griffiths, explained that local elders had told his father to look after the country, and to keep it as a place to teach his children.

“Your stomach turns around and around inside when you know and feel that something bad has happened to you, and you can feel it in your stomach,” Chris Griffiths said. “You don’t feel right.”

Locals gave evidence about fences which cut them off from hunting grounds, infrastructure built over traditional tracks and damage done to traditional cultural areas.

More on Native Title:
Native Title: What does it mean and why do we have it?
The Native Title Act was first created 23 years ago and marks a historic moment in Australian law that changed the face of our land rights system.
A stepping stone in native title: the Wik case, 19 years on
The first native title case after the Mabo decision, ‘Wik’ has paved the way for thousands of square kilometres of land to be returned to Indigenous Australians.
13 native title claims have been granted in the Northern Territory
Native title has been granted over an area of the Northern Territory almost two-thirds the size of Tasmania.
Native Title amendments 'could generate more wealth for communities'
The Minerals Council of Australia has criticised governance existing in Indigenous communities and is calling on the Abbott government to amend Native Title Laws.