"TO GET here today the Western Bundjalung people have had to have patience, strength and courage. Now I can say Ngullingah Jugun (Our Country), congratulations."
Justice Jayne Jagot gave the positive determination of native title to Western Bundjalung people in front of a crowd at a sitting of the Federal Court at Tabulam Racecourse yesterday, which was followed by an explosion of whistles, wooing and applause that filled the tent from the near 400 people in attendance.
It was a day of joy and a day of sadness for the Western Bundjalung people; joy that years of perseverance and determination paid off, and a day of mourning for a loved elder who passed this morning ahead of the determination, and for the many elders and community members who passed in the six years since the claim was submitted in 2011.
More than 800 land identification areas which encompass national parks and state forests were a part of the claim.
Proud Bundjalung woman and sibling to an applicant, Joan Hippi shed tears during the speeches.
"I am so elated... today is a celebration for what's happened, it's a sorry day also (but) it's been a long, tiresome journey and now it's a start of a new beginning for us," Mrs Hippi said.
"A lot of our elders are gone but it's the younger generation that has stepped up to the plate and took the fight forward."
Native Title holder, David Mundine said: "These lands, these countries are the heart and soul of our people".
"Native title means having a real say in our country and our development, and it means our children and our children and grandchildren can be proud of who they are."
Native title recognises the Western Bundjalung traditional owners' rights and interests including the right to camp, hunt, fish, gather resources and conduct their cultural practices on their country.
They also have rights to be consulted and play an active role in how their country is managed.
Minjungbal Bundjalung woman and NTScorp CEO, Natalie Rotumah said the positive result was "fantastic".
"They made the decision over six years ago to withdraw many previous claims and come together to file a unified application. The combined strength of Western Bundjalung people has helped get this claim across the line."
Western Bundjalung applicant, Terry Robinson said the "long fight" began with his grandparents and other elders for recognition as traditional elders.
"Our country, our Jugun, has looked after us and now it is our turn to look after country," Mr Robinson said.
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