• Kaurna Elders & Community members (supplied )Source: supplied
The Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains claimed a monumental victory on Wednesday, after the Federal Court of Australia granted their land rights claim – making it the first positive determination of native title over a capital city area since 1992.
Douglas Smith

22 Mar 2018 - 2:53 PM  UPDATED 22 Mar 2018 - 3:56 PM

The Kaurna claim was lodged 18 years ago, and now confers native title rights in 17 parcels of land in South Australia from Lower Light to Myponga, including areas in Adelaide.

The packed courtroom was so full with Kaurna community members, some spilling into the hallway, that the door had to be left open as the determination was handed down by Justice Debra Mortimer.  

CEO of SA Native Title Services, Keith Thomas, congratulated the Kaurna people for their determination of native title, saying the judgment confirms the status of the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of lands around what is now Adelaide.

“It’s a decision that means that the respect and recognition that Kaurna people hold as traditional custodians of this land is now formalised under Federal law,” he said.

The judgement delivered by Justice Mortimer, was agreed on between the Native Title Claim Group and the State of South Australia.

Representative of the Kaurna people, Suzanne Russell said it was an emotional day for the original custodians of the Adelaide Plains.

“To have this recognition, that we are the native title holders in this country here is just so important to us,” Ms Russell said.

“Always has been, always will be Kaurna land, we’ve always known that.

“But now we have that legal recognition to go with it,” she said.

She addressed the court during the proceedings and spoke of the emotion after such a long claim, particularly when many family members had passed away during the process.

Ms Russell placed photos of ancestors who had passed away on the court bench during her speech, saying how the present Kaurna community placed particular remembrance of the people who started the claim 18-years ago, but have since passed on.  

“Many people started this fight for us and we remember them today,” Ms Russell said.

She also presented the court, along with Kaurna legal representative Tim Campbell, with an urn containing materials gathered from across Kaurna land over the past six months.

Also in the courtroom was South Australia’s new Attorney General, Vicki Chapman, who congratulated the Kaurna people and committed the new government to working to finalise the necessary associated Indigenous Land Use Agreement.

"The determining is a positive step to reconciliation. Unquestionably, native title is complex. I welcome the consent determination," Ms Chapman said.