The approval of a native title claim for the Barngarla people is something the wider community should also be proud of.
Last Thursday, the federal court recognised the Barngarla people as the traditional owners of a 44,481.75 square kilometre area that spans from Port Augusta to Port Lincoln.
Justice John Mansfield announced the decision but excluded Port Augusta, the coastal waters below Port Lincoln and the islands of the Spencer Gulf from the claim.
The decision came after an almost two decade-long campaign by the Barngarla people to acknowledge their native land rights.
Traditional owner Elliott McNamara said the decision would not mean any changes for people in the area but signified a historical moment for the Barngarla people.
“We are proud to be recognised as the traditional owners of this area,” Mr McNamara said.
“It gives greater recognition to the Barngarla people.”
The Barngarla people have always been linked to Whyalla and its surrounding areas and the native title decision publically acknowledged this connection to country.
Mr McNamara said the claim had taken so long because the Barngarla people had to fight to be recognised as an Aboriginal group before the claim could be considered.
“It allows us to protect our heritage and cultural rights,” Mr McNamara said.
Mr McNamara likened the decision to becoming an Australia citizen - while nothing physically changed, the decision meant something deeply significant to people involved.
“I thought it was very appropriate for Justice Mansfield to recognise us just ahead of the Australia Day weekend,” Mr McNamara said.
“It’s not only for my generation, it’s so the future generations can feel and be proud as traditional owners of this land in the same way new Australians become naturalised Australians.”
“We are proud to be recognised as the traditional owners of this area."Traditional owner Elliott McNamara
Mr McNamara said before being given proof of their native title, the Barngarla people had worked with Arrium Mining to create Walga Mining and Services which indicated their willingness to ensure outcomes that benefitted not only Aboriginal people but the region.
“The positives of what this native title can do for not only this region but local government, developers, pastoralists, farming groups and mining is there is no interference from other groups to say they have interests in this area, there’s only one group of people that they need to be dealing with,” Mr McNamara said
Mr McNamara said the Barngarla people wanted to continue work in partnership with the community, not restrict people from using the land any differently to how they already use it.
“We’re very proactive with working with everyone in this area to have positive outcomes so that we all benefit from this region,” Mr McNamara said.
“Nothing will change dramatically.
“This community is to be shared by all of us together and the Barngarla people want to work with this community in general.”