• The High Court has sat in every other capital city in its 115-year history, but never in Darwin. (@CourtsinNT) (Twitter)Source: Twitter
There was a ceremonial sitting, before the court began its first ever case in the Northern Territory.
4 Sep 2018 - 5:14 PM  UPDATED 4 Sep 2018 - 5:17 PM

An appeal by the NT government against a $3.3 million native title payout to Aboriginal people from a remote area has begun in the first High Court sitting in Darwin in the court's 115-year history.

The Ngaliwurru and Nungali people of Timber Creek were awarded compensation two years ago by the Federal Court over the loss of native title rights, due to the fact that a town had been built on their land.

Timber Creek is a tiny town of about 250 people near the WA border.

The Indigenous groups were awarded $512,000 for economic loss, almost $1.5 million for interest and another $1.3 million for pain and suffering in the landmark case.

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Indigenous man Chris Griffiths, whose late father helped lead the court action and won a previous legal battle for native title in part of the town, said the NT government had built infrastructure or tried to sell land for commercial development without consulting Aboriginal people.

"Indigenous people, my people, were practising their cultural protocols, forces and values in those places near Timber Creek," he told reporters.

"We are not trying to make trouble, we just want to make sure people understand how important it was.

"You can't remove the culture from the country it belonged to, where I come from, you can share it but they don't own it."

The NT government appeal argues the method to determine the costs was incorrect.

With Timber Creek representing a relatively small 23 square kilometre area, lawyers have said the $3.3 million payout would trigger much larger native title compensation claims around the country.

The case will be heard before all seven judges of the High Court.

At a ceremonial sitting, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel said it marked an "historic occasion".

"This is the first time that the Court has sat to hear cases in the Northern Territory," she said.

"Whatever be the omissions of the past, the Court is now here and no doubt will be again in the future. The Justices and I look forward to meeting members of the judiciary and of the legal profession and enjoying the hospitality of Territorians."


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