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Native title win: Upurli Upurli Nguratja claim group celebrates delivery of country at Cundeelee

Headshot of Madeleine Clark
Madeleine ClarkKalgoorlie Miner
The Upurli Upurli Nguratja claim area.
Camera IconThe Upurli Upurli Nguratja claim area. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

A Federal Court determination has given native title rights to the Upurli Upurli Nguratja claimants over more than 26,000sqkm of the Western Desert cultural bloc east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The Upurli Upurli Nguratja native title ruling took place in a historic sitting of the court on country at Cundeelee on Tuesday morning.

About 160km east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the Upurli Upurli Nguratja claimants were officially given native title over the area’s land and waters by Justice Timothy McEvoy.

The claimants are members of the Western Desert cultural bloc, and connected to each other and the claim area through the tjukurrpa, which means “the dreaming” or “the law”.

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The claim area covers 26,692sqkm and includes Cundeelee and Coonana reserves, and significant sites of the tjukurrpa.

In the vicinity of Mulga Rock there are great ecological values such as the yellow sand plain priority ecological community — known as one of the most pristine areas in the Great Victoria Desert — as well as the endangered sandhill dunnart.

The area is also upstream from the Queen Victoria A-class nature reserve, was also home to the Cundeelee Mission, and is intersected by the trans-Australian Railway.

The claim area’s name means “belonging to the country of the tadpoles”, and relates to a large rock hole near Cundeelee that is central to the cultural history of the claim area.

The court heard oral submissions by the claimants’ lawyers and the State of WA before making the determination of native title recognising the rights and interests of the claimants.

The claimants included Debbie Hansen, Jacinta Paul, Michael David Tucker, Jarman Jamieson, Debbie Carmody, Thelma O’Loughlin, Beverley Sambo, Darrell Graham, Jocelyn Walker, Lance Ingomar and Nancy Donegan.

Connected to each other and the claim area through tjukurrpa, many of the claimants have spent parts of their lives within the area — at Cundeelee and Coonana — or were born there.

Many claimants are descendants of people displaced by the nuclear tests conducted at Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950s — the Anangu (Spinifex) people.

They have all come to hold native title rights in the area along with descendants of the original inhabitants.

There are about 172 live and pending tenements in the determination area, mostly for exploration licences, and two mining licences with more than 70 proponents with interests on country.

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