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FINIA Congratulates the Butchulla People

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The Fraser Island Natural Integrity Alliance congratulates the Butchulla People on the Federal Court’s formal recognition of their native title rights and interests over 164,958 hectares of land and waters of Fraser Island.

Friday 24th October was an emotional experience for the 450 Butchulla People gathered at the Federal Court’s temporary ‘courtroom’ on the beach as Justice Berna Collier officially recognised the Butchulla people as the island’s native title holders.

Image Credit: David Anderson

Image Credit: David Anderson

Butchulla elder Fiona Foley said the decision had been 18 years in the making.

“We’re very excited to finally get this recognition and see so many Butchulla people here at once,” she said.

“I never thought this day would happen in my lifetime.”

Geoffrey Renouf, Senior State Negotiator Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Services Department of Natural Resources and Mines, said the Australian legal system had officially recognised the native title held by the Butchulla People over their land.

“Today’s determination recognises that the Butchulla People’s native title rights have existed since before sovereignty and that they have cared for this country for many generations,” he said.

“Their enduring spiritual affiliation to Fraser Island, which they call K’Gari – meaning ‘paradise’, is evident in the island’s creation story. K’Gari was a white spirit from the sky who was changed into an island so that she could stay forever in the beautiful place she had helped to create.

“Today’s determination means the Butchulla People and their future generations will have the use and enjoyment of their traditional lands to exercise their native title rights and interests in accordance with their traditional laws and customs.”

Butchulla dancer

Image Credit: David Anderson

Mr Renouf said the Federal Court’s decision settled a claim that was made in November 2009.

“The Butchulla People have been involved in extensive negotiations with State and local governments, tourism operators and service providers,” he said.

“Those negotiations have also resulted in the signing of a Protected Areas Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding to manage a range of activities – including hunting, camping and the use of traditional place names – within the Great Sandy National Park. These agreements demonstrate the Butchulla People’s commitment to maintaining the cultural and natural values of their traditional country and their aspirations to derive cultural and economic benefit from their special relationship with their country.”

Queensland South Native Title Services chief executive officer Kevin Smith said the formal court recognition and related Indigenous Land Use Agreement would strengthen the Butchulla people’s ability to enjoy and protect their rights and interests over their traditional lands and waters.

He said it would also strengthen the prospect of economic opportunities for current and future generations of Butchulla people through eco-tourism and related business development.

“This native title determination reinforces the Butchulla people protecting K’Gari as their island paradise for current and future generations,” said Mr Smith.

Butchulla Dancers

Image Credit: David Anderson

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