On Thursday the 19th of October Wooleen Station was honoured to host the consent determination of native title for the Wajarri Yamatji people. The legal process for recognising the Wajarri Yamatji people as the traditional owners has been underway for 22 years and the on-country Federal Court hearing finally acknowledged their connection to 68,743 square kilometres of land in Western Australia. Justice John Griffiths flew to Wooleen to preside over the hearing which was attended by over 300 people.
The Wajarri claim is one of the largest in Australia and it’s the first claim to succeed in the mid-west area of Western Australia. The claim covered 56 pastoral leases throughout the shires of Meekatharra, Mount Magnet, Murchison, Upper Gascoyne, Cue and Yalgoo. Wooleen Station was just one of those leases.
Australians now formally recognise, under the law, the Wajarri people’s continuous occupation and connection with their land through time immemorial. The determination was by consent of all parties involved including the State of Western Australia, pastoral respondents, some local governments and the Wajarri people. It was not litigation.
Pastoral leases, and the people who currently occupy them, will remain the same as they always have. Despite the 22 year legal ordeal to get to this point, we have always know and believed in the Wajarri connection to the country. Many Wajarri lived on Wooleen when the Pollocks bought the pastoral lease, and some of those people remembered Brett Pollock from when he first visited Wooleen in 1954. In the seventies he became a jackaroo and worked alongside many of the people who attended the determination. Consequently, we have always operated with an open door policy for Wajarri people to visit, camp and hunt on the property, and we are relieved that Wajarri people have finally been given formal recognition of their rights in this land. The determination outlines the importance for Wajarri people to visit places of cultural or spiritual importance and maintain, care for, and protect those places by carrying out activities to preserve their physical or spiritual integrity.
Now that the Wajarri people’s rights have been formally recognised we will enter into an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA). This sets out exactly what rights Wajarri people have in the land, and is a negotiation between not only pastoralists and Wajarri people, but all groups with a recognised right in the determined area. We are looking forward to participating in the creation of this agreement, and congratulate the Wajarri people on formally obtaining rights that should never have been denied to them.