There were cheers but also many tears in the Juluwarlu office in Roebourne when the Federal Court of Australia delivered its judgement at the end of one of the longest Native Title Court cases in Australian history. By direct line from Sydney, we listened in silence as the Judge delivered his decision. “I have found that the Yindjibarndi are entitled to exclusive native title rights and interests over all of the unallocated Crown land in the claimed area and the Yandeeyara Reserve, except for a small area occupied by the Tom Price railway. This includes the unallocated Crown land occupied by FMG’s Solomon Hub mine.” Moments passed before we trusted what our ears had heard, and turned to one and then another. Cheers in Roebourne were heard all the way across the continent in the court room in Sydney, but amid the joy there was also deep sadness, for we remembered our many Elders who started this fight on our behalf but who did not live to see this day. As we moved from one to another, we spoke of all our old people and young people who could not be with us to share this day.
Yindjibarndi lawman Michael Woodley spoke for us all, when he said,
“…we leave the legacy today for all Yindjibarndi.”
20th July 2017 is a day we will all remember. We never lost the land, it has always been ours. But now the highest Australian court in the land has recognised what we have always known to be true.