• The group who gathered at Bourketown to hear the Native Title determination via video link. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The latest Waanyi Native Title determination may only have taken four years to get through a court process, but it's part of a much longer fight for Waanyi people.
Keira Jenkins

28 Sep 2021 - 3:39 PM  UPDATED 28 Sep 2021 - 3:39 PM

Waanyi people in Queensland's gulf country are celebrating a significant Native Title win this week.

The Federal Court formally recognised Waanyi Native Title over a 441 square kilometre area between the Northern Territory border and Bourketown.

Waanyi Prescribed Body Corporate chairman Alec Doomadgee says this not only means Waanyi people will have rights to negotiate land use of the area, but it also means healing can begin.

"I'm thankful that I can be part of this change-making for my people," he told NITV News.

"But there's still a long way to go. We want to use these Native Title rights for the benefit of all Waanyi people, not just a few, not just one family, all our people."

The determination follows a successful 2018 Native Title claim for Waanyi people of almost 18,000 square kilometres of land west and south of the Northern Territory border. 

The latest case took four years, a relatively short time compared to other Native Title applications, but for Waanyi people, it has been a long time coming.

Mr Doomadgee said the case is just one small part of a fight spanning 40 years, when his people led a walk off at Doomadgee mission, establishing the Waanyi Garawa Land Trust in the Northern Territory.

Mr Doomadgee said one of the men leading this movement in the 1980s was his father, who died in 2007. 

"This was unfinished business that started a long time ago," he said.

"This is a significant win for Waanyi people. This is fulfilling the dreams of our Elders who came before."

'Taking power back'

But Mr Doomadgee said this is just the beginning for Waanyi people.

"We have big dreams," he said.

"It's easy to sit back on your laurels and say 'that's done now' but I won't be satisfied until Waanyi people are owning Waanyi business on Waanyi land.

"The way forward is independence, including economic independence. This Native Title is a way of taking our power back, it's a means to a greater goal."

The Native Title wins come as the Commonwealth Government announced the National Native Title Corporation will receive funding for another three years.

"This funding will provide a firm footing for the NNTC to support Traditional Owners navigate the native title system and receive the full range of benefits from their native title holdings," Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said.

Barngarla people win 25-year battle for Port Augusta Native Title
Though it is a "proud moment" for Barngarla people, the protracted legal battle means many Elders did not live to see the victory.