Friday, 10 June 2005.
A contentious native title claim in the Kimberley, in north-western WA, has been settled by the Federal Court in Perth.
The 300-page document handed down recognised that the Bardi and Jawi peoples hold exclusive native title rights to about 1,000 square kilometres of land on the Dampier peninsula, north of Broome.
The court also found the claimants have shared rights to about 4,000 square kilometres of ocean off the coast.
The area includes valuable pearling grounds but the Kimberley Land Council says the ruling means the 900-strong local community has the right to gather shells for ceremonial use.
A senior legal officer with the council, Krysti Guest, says it is a significant victory.
"People are very positive and very relieved that after such a long period of time there, traditional ownership of the country has been recognised," she said.
The Western Australian Deputy Premier, Eric Ripper, says he is disappointed the Commonwealth refused to support a negotiated settlement, leaving it to a court decision which could be open to appeal.
"I think they took an excessively technical view and that may be to the detriment of certainty in the claim area," he said.
"A negotiated settlement is usually speedier and more certain."
Mr Ripper says today's decision may not be the end of the matter.
"An aggrieved party, say the Commonwealth, might appeal.
"There could then be a further appeal to the High Court, meaning the matter would be unresolved for years."