Tribe on a high as heartland won back

Tribe on a high as heartland won back, by Kevin Meade - 11th September 2007
(Credit: The Australian)

THE Queensland Government has finally agreed to hand the summit of Mount Lindesay on the Queensland-NSW border to a group of Aboriginal people who regard the mountain top as the "heart" of their nation.

The Githabul people were angered early this year when the summit, which is on the Queensland side of the border, was left out of a deal in which the NSW Government handed them joint management control of 112,000ha of national parks and state forests in northern NSW.

The February 28 handover, the biggest indigenous land use agreement ever reached in NSW, involved land in the Kyogle, Tenterfield and Woodenbong areas, and included the southern slopes of Mount Lindesay.

But in a strange quirk of the deal, the summit remained out of reach for the Githabul because the Queensland Government refused to hand it over.

However, Queensland Natural Resources Minister Craig Wallace said late yesterday the state Government would agree to a native title claim by the Githabul people for the top of Mount Lindesay.

Githabul spokesman Trevor Close said Queensland government negotiators had agreed to recommend to Mr Wallace that the summit be handed over, provided the traditional owners submitted a fresh claim for the mountain top.

The handover of the summit is also subject to formal Federal Court determination of the NSW agreement, first reported in The Australian in January. A decision is expected later this year.

In a letter to Mr Close, the Queensland Government's executive director of indigenous services, James McNamara, said that while he was unable to commit to the state's final position on any future claim, he would be willing to recommend to the minister that the state "agree to a consent determination that native title exists over a new claim filed in the Federal Court by the Githabul People, over the summit area only of Mount Lindesay". The offer comes with several conditions, including a provision that any Githabul claim for the summit is not overlapped by any other native title claim.

Another stipulation is that "the parties to the claim agree that the determination would only recognise the non-exclusive right to use and enjoy the claim area for social, cultural, religious, spiritual and ceremonial purposes".

The Githabul people must also obtain the consent of any other respondents to a determination of a claim for the summit.

Mr Close said Githabul elders were elated over the Queensland Government's offer.

"The summit of Mount Lindesay is the heart of our nation. The chance of getting the heart back has put a big smile on the elders' faces," he said.

But Mr Close said a handover of the summit would be "just the beginning" as far as the Githabuls' native title claims in Queensland were concerned.

"This (summit offer) is just a chip in the brick wall," he said.

Mr Close said Githabul elders were planning to negotiate with the Queensland Government for native title to tens of thousands of hectares of land in the Warwick and Killarney areas.

Under the agreement reached in NSW, the Githabul will be involved with the state Government in the joint management of national parks and state forests.


Githabul people