Good evening, my name is Thomas Wilson. I am a Lardil person from Mornington Island in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.  My people are saltwater people, the neighbours of the Yangkaal, Kaiadilt and Gangalidda Peoples. 

Before proceeding, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this country where we are gathered this evening. I would also like to acknowledge all traditional owners that have travelled from far and wide to attend this conference.

I have had the privilege of being the Chairperson of the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation for the last 9 years. I am proud to stand here and to join all of you in the ongoing fight for country.

CLCAC was established in 1984. Last year in September, we proudly celebrated our 30 year anniversary. Over 1000 people attended the celebrations and it gave us a chance to reflect on our achievements.

CLCAC has completed claims for 6 of our 9 language groups.  We now have native title and PBCs set up for the Waanyi, Gangalidda, Garawa, Lardil, Yangkaal and Kaiadilt Peoples.  Much of the area covered by these determinations is exclusive native title.  We only have three groups left who are yet to get their native title.  Claims for the Kukatj, Gkuthaarn and Kurtijar Peoples are well underway and we are confident we will get positive determinations for these groups.

Over the years we have learned to face our challenges head on.  In 1999, the world's biggest zinc mine commenced operation in the Gulf in the country of the Waanyi People. Native title negotiations surrounding the mine were hard fought and hard won.  The Century Mine Agreement was the first future act agreement reached but we had to hold 2 sit ins at the mine in order to pull the company into line.  I would like to acknowledge Mr Henry Aplin, a Waanyi elder here with us tonight and one of the leaders in the fight against the Century Mine.

In 1994, the Waanyi People lodged a native title claim over part of the land on which the Century Mine was planned. The NNTT refused to register the claim.  The Waanyi People took their case to the High Court and won.  What is significant about this case is that although they had made a compensation offer which didn’t require the Waanyi to prove native title, at the same time, the company and the government were involved in a court case to try and stop the Waanyi from progressing their native title claim.  

We had another win in the High Court in Yanner versus Eaton.  This famous case, sometimes known as the “crocodile case” started with the prosecution of Murrandoo Yanner for the killing of crocodiles. He was charged under the Fauna Conservation Act for not having a licence.  Murrandoo argued that he was exercising his rights as a Gangalidda person and according to traditional laws and custom he did not need to hold a licence.  The High Court decided that the Act did not extinguish the native title right to hunt crocodiles. What many people do not know is that the first case of this kind that came before the High Court was Walden v Hensler in 1987.  In this case, the late Mr Herbert Walden, also a Gangalidda man from the Gulf and Murrandoo’s uncle, was charged with killing a turkey.  Unfortunately, this was before the Mabo case and native title was not available to Mr Walden as a defence.

At the same time as we did our native title work, we have also been following a land acquisition strategy to get as much Aboriginal freehold and whitefella land back for our mob as possible.  Our mob now own 7 pastoral leases, large areas of Aboriginal freehold over old reserves and 35 residential blocks in town ready for development for Aboriginal housing.

Following on from our success in native title and land rights, we established two of the leading ranger groups in the country - the Normanton Rangers and the Gangalidda and Garawa Rangers.  We have also recently set up the Waanyi Biddungu Rangers. 

Our rangers dedicate themselves to activities that better the environment and the lives of Traditional Owners.  They achieve this by focusing on:

  • Weed and feral animal management across the region;

  • Marine debris collection;

  • Biosecurity patrols and monitoring ;

  • Fire management and the reintroduction of traditional burning practices;

  • Water quality monitoring; and

  • Restoration of environmentally and culturally sensitive areas.

Our rangers are to be congratulated for the following efforts:

  • Receiving a Highly Commended Award for the Queensland Premier’s Awards for Excellence in the Green Category in 2009;

  • Eradicating over 48,000 feral pigs since 2009;

  • Eradicating over 5,000 feral horses;

  • Eradicating over 150,000 weeds of national significance;

  • The identification of 31, previously unknown bird colonies;

  • In 2014, winning the Queensland Regional Achievement Award in the Peabody Environment and Landcare Category

However, with every success there are always more challenges to meet.

Our latest endeavour is the establishment of an Economic Development Unit.  We held the first Gulf Indigenous Economic Development Summit in 2012 and are now assisting Traditional Owners and their PBCs to develop Indigenous tourism product.  We are also preparing a plan to increase the financial independence of the PBC’s and to work cooperatively with other regional stakeholders to create strong local economies that can stand up to outside forces.

We look forward to the challenges ahead and to helping traditional owners in our region gain economic independence.

Thank you and enjoy the conference.

Thomas Wilson.

(Featured image provided by AIATSIS).

Release date:
16 Jun 2015
Stories on Country
Group relations:
CLCAC Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation

Upcoming and recent events

Event date:
28 Sep 2014

Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation 30 Year Anniversary Celebrations.

Event date:
15 Mar 2014
CLCAC hosted the region's first Indigenous Economic Development Summit in Burketown (March 2014). The Summit was called by Traditional Owners, key industry and business leaders and government officials. Key topics included tourism and small business opportunities.
Event date:
15 Oct 2013
The Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (CLCAC) held an Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Burketown Shire Council Hall on 16 October 2013.

Stories on country

26 Oct 2016

Designation of Gangalidda People’s traditional country on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Network

18 Mar 2016

Ten Gangalidda and Garawa Rangers recently completed another round of shorebird identification training with renowned ornithologist (bird expert) Roger Jaensch.  The training session also included a survey of known bird roosts found between the Leichhardt and Albert River mouths.  Though conditions were extremely hot and the going was tough on our team, several thousand birds were observed roosting on the intertidal flats between the river mouths.  Such data adds to the recent nomination of Tarrant (located immediate

10 Mar 2016

CLCAC Rangers completed the last round of training required to complete their Certificate II in Remote Crocodile Management on 4 March, in an intensive two week training program that included weekend work.  This round of training focused on nest surveys and egg incubation. 

 

16 Jun 2015

Good evening, my name is Thomas Wilson. I am a Lardil person from Mornington Island in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.  My people are saltwater people, the neighbours of the Yangkaal, Kaiadilt and Gangalidda Peoples. 

Before proceeding, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this country where we are gathered this evening. I would also like to acknowledge all traditional owners that have travelled from far and wide to attend this conference.

2 Apr 2015

 Native title rights and interests were yesterday formally recognised in Burketown by the Federal Court of Australia over a number of culturally significant areas and sites, including:

19 Mar 2015

Members and Traditional Owners please be aware that the person (David Nilsson) referred to in the attached 60 Minute Report as a Carbon Cowboy is attempting to engage Traditional Owner groups in the Lower Gulf.