• Left to right: Bendigo & District Aboriginal Co-operative director Jeanne Miller, Native title claim applicant Elliott McNamara and BDAC officer Lez Taylor. (Norman Waterhouse lawyers)Source: Norman Waterhouse lawyers
Though it is a "proud moment" for Barngarla people, the protracted legal battle means many Elders did not live to see the victory.
Nadine Silva

27 Sep 2021 - 6:26 PM  UPDATED 27 Sep 2021 - 6:28 PM

Barngarla Traditional Owners have been granted Native Title rights to the Port Augusta area after a 25-year legal process in the federal court.

The ruling on Friday expands the area of Barngarla Country’s Native Title to 44,500 square kilometres of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

Jason Bilney, the chair of Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, said it was a proud moment.

“We finally got the last bow tie of Barngalara determination,” he said.

After Port Lincoln and Whyalla, Port Augusta is the third town to be won from the Native Title claim submitted by Barngarla people in 1996.

“It's taken a big toll on people over 25 years. We've lost Elders that actually started our Native Title claim.”

Mr Bilney partly attributed the lengthy process to three overlapping claims to the area.

“The government was saying it was about three tribes, but it always has been and always will be Barngarla Country, so we went through that mediation,” Mr Bilney said.

Barngarla Elder Uncle Harry Dare said Port Augusta has always been significant to Aboriginal people.

“It’s been a meeting place for a lot of tribes around Australia,” he said.

“We have trading routes from Port Augusta going right up to the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, into Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and all the other groups closely related to us in South Australia.”

Mr Dare said he’s looking forward to finally reaping the benefits of Native Title “to the advantage of Barngarla people.”

Mr Dare reflected on his personal experiences while considering the impact of the determination. 

“Myself and my siblings were all taken away; we were part of the Stolen Generation. Now there’s only two of us left.

“Now is the time for us to really buckle down and make sure that we have respect.”

Mr Dare said he’s confident Barngarla determination will be left in good hands going forward.

“It comes with a lot of demands but I’m pretty sure our younger people are up for this fight now.”

“We’ve taught them how to fight for their country and they’re ready to take this fight further if we have to.”


Wangkamahdla People celebrate Queensland Native Title ruling
The determination recognises the rights of the Wangkamahdla people to more than 3 million hectares of Country.