Yunipingu wins historic Native Title fight: The Australian

22 May 2023

The late Gumatj clan leader Yunupingu has won an historic Native Title fight in the Federal Court, a week after he was farewelled at a moving ceremony on his homelands.

Yunupingu launched the $700 million claim in 2019, arguing that his people’s property was acquired by the Commonwealth without consent when it authorised mining operations in 1968.

Yunupingu’s father and uncle had pleaded unsuccessfully with the Menzies government to prevent mining on the Gove peninsula in the Yirrkala Bark Petitions that now hang in Parliament House.

The Gove land rights case that followed was unsuccessful but ultimately led to the first land rights legislation in Australia.

The Federal Court will publish its decision.

Gumatj clan leader Djawa Yunupingu has welcomed the decision by the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia in favour of the late clan leader Yunupingu.

“This case was launched by my brother, Yunupingu (dec), in 2019, and centred around the Commonwealth’s decision to allow mining on Gumatj country in 1968 without our consent.

“The case signifies the enormous contribution which my brother has made to the development of the law in this country in the service of all First Nations People. It is a continuance of his life’s work, which began with the Bark Petition and the Gove Land Rights case to have Native Title properly recognised as the heart of the identity of all First Nations People.

“My brother believed that all First Nations People were entitled to receive compensation on just terms in accordance with s.51(xxxi) of the Constitution like any other Australian when their sacred land is taken away from them without their consent.

“The ramifications of these findings are significant, potentially impacting all Native Title in the NT acquired by the Commonwealth between 1911-1978.

“Although my brother did not live to hear today’s judgment, he would have been pleased that the Federal Court’s decision recognised the fundamental right of First Nations People to be treated equally by Australian law.