Big win in Barngarla claim
After a legal fight spanning a quarter of a century, the Barngarla people have been granted native title over Port Augusta.
The Barngarla people were granted native title over the city of Port Augusta during a ceremonial sitting of the Federal Court at one of their most significant meeting places, which is now known as Gladstone Square. The region’s original Barngarla name is Goordnada.
The ruling on Port Augusta adds it to the more than 44,000 square kilometres of the Eyre Peninsula already recognised as Barngarla county under native title law.
Justice Natalie Charlesworth, a former local, recognised the Barngarla people's connection to the area, saying; “The boundary lines of the determination area can never reflect your [Indigenous] conceptions of country”.
Justice Charlesworth said Port Augusta is often misunderstood by non-Aboriginal people.
“There are people who understand Port Augusta as a place, but there are many people who just don't get it,” she said.
“Some people dump on the place, not just with their litter but with their words.
“Their nostrils can't detect the smell of the saltbush.
“Their eyes don't appreciate the true colour of the soil; not burgundy as in the Barossa Valley, not peachy as in Alice Springs, but russet like no other place.
“At a human level, they don't understand the inhabitants of this place, their humour, their intellect, their aspirations.
“They wrongly equate disadvantage and dialect with stupidity or other forms of inferiority.”
She also paid tribute to members of the community who did not live to see determination.
“The court recognises those elders that worked so hard for this result and some of them have not survived to witness the outcome of their labours today,” Justice Charlesworth said.
Jason Bilney, chair of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, said he is to have continued the fight for recognition.
“Port Augusta's always been the crossroads; whether it's the crossroads for Indigenous people, let alone the crossroads for Australia,” he said.
“To win Port Augusta's a big milestone. It's the last jigsaw in the puzzle, it's the connection to the country, it's about the history.”