• Barngarla Native Title celebration ceremony in Whyalla. (Supplied/ABC News)Source: Supplied/ABC News
The Barngarla people will formally take ownership of large parts of Eyre Peninsula after a successful native title claim that was first lodged in 1996.
NITV Staff Writer

28 Jun 2018 - 4:23 PM  UPDATED 28 Jun 2018 - 4:33 PM

The official ownership of the land came into effect at an emotional ceremony in Whyalla on Wednesday.

This celebration comes after a doggedly fought battle that lasted two decades. The Barngarla first introduced their claim with the National Native Title Tribunal in 1996. It was then taken to the Federal Court more than two years later, but the judgement wasn’t given for another 17 years. At one point, the Barngarla were told they didn’t exist.

“It’s so important. We’ve fought so long, and it’s finally happened, and I’m just so proud of today and seeing the people around me,” Barngarla Elder, Maureen Atkinson told the ABC.             

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall congratulated Traditional Owners at the event and praised them for their patience and determination.

“This has been a real struggle for these people, a 20-year struggle, and finally, the Federal Court has recognised their Native Title. So it’s a great day, a great celebration, and congratulations to everybody who has been involved in this claim who are now celebrating,” Mr Marshall told the ABC.

"Despite their challenges, they were patient and persevered to secure the recognition that they have always known to be theirs, that this is their land."

The Barngarla claim covers about 44,500 square kilometres, about three-quarters of the Eyre Peninsula, and includes the cities of Port Augusta, Port Lincoln and Whyalla.        

About 50,000 people live within its boundaries, making it one of South Australia's most populated native title areas.

Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation board co-chairperson Emma Richards said the community could now focus on having a direct say on how their land is managed.

“We can now move on reconnecting with Country and help our kids reconnect with our culture and country,” she told the Eyre Peninsula Tribune.

“It’s a starting point of celebrating who you are and embracing the opportunity to manage your traditional lands, seas and waters.”

The Barngarla people have been working hard over the last few years revitalising their language and have started researching how language revival can benefit the community’s overall health and well-being.

Could language revival cure diabetes?
It may sound far-fetched, but a group of scientists have received more than $1M to establish the relationship between language revival and wellbeing – and prove they can cure illness through restoring cultural heritage. The multidisciplinary study hopes to change the way that governments all over the world, not just in Australia, approach health issues in Indigenous communities.

The SA Premier said during the event he would commit his government to do more to overcome Indigenous disadvantage.

"I want to ensure an across government focus on the actions we can take together to encourage greater Aboriginal economic participation and improve the delivery of key services," he said.       

"I'm not one to pretend that government can solve all problems, but I do believe we can do much better in providing some achievable and measurable outcomes for our Aboriginal communities."       

With AAP