Borroloola win big in Territory land claim

The Rrumburriya Borroloola people in the Northern Territory have won the right to trade as part of a successful native title claim over the Borroloola township — a first for the Top End.

At a special sitting of the Federal Court at the town, on the McArthur River about 50kms upstream from the Gulf of Carpentaria, Justice John Mansfield last week handed certificates of title to the native title group.

It followed the court’s decision on June 30.

Northern Land Council CEO Joe Morrison said the “native title jigsaw puzzle” across the NT was being filled in.

He congratulated the Borroloola people for their landmark win.

Mr Morrison said it was “an important fact of life for the NT and the nation itself to recognise the long-standing commercial trade that took place long before the arrival of the British to Australia”.

Natural resources in the Borroloola area include timber, ochres, medicinal plants, bush tucker, fish, turtles and water.

The right to trade was opposed by the NT and Commonwealth governments, which argued that Native Title rights were not of a commercial nature.

The NLC said the Rrumburriya Borroloola people presented a rich diversity of evidence dating back to trade with the Macassans, primarily trepangers from Sulawesi in Indonesia, prior to British settlement.

In his judgment, Justice Mansfield said that the transactions with the Macassans were sensibly described as transactions of a commercial kind.

He concluded that the Macassan visits to the Gulf country, dating from at least 1780, involved the activities of trade, barter or exchange of a commercial kind.

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