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Native title win in WA after 18-year fight

AAP logoAAP 31/10/2016

A native title claimant group has won a near 20-year battle for land in WA's Pilbara region.

The Robe River Kuruma people filed their claim in 1998 and had part of it formally consented in an on-country Federal Court hearing before Justice Michael Barker at Mindoona, east of Pannawonica, on Tuesday.

They now have exclusive rights to an area of about 4123 square kilometres in the Hamersley Ranges between Pannawonica and Tom Price.

The determination recognises the Robe River Kuruma people had their own systems of laws and customs before European settlement, which means they can continue cultural customs on the land and will be consulted about developments such as mining.

The area, often called Silvergrass, has many sacred sites and permanent river pools.

"The Robe River Kuruma believe that a long time ago, this land was soft and malleable," Justice Barker said.

"It was at that time that the ancestral beings created the current physical features of the land, including the determination area.

"The ancestral beings put the Kuruma language and people in the land, and also laid down the laws to govern the Robe River Kuruma people and how they behave.

"It is these laws and customs that connect the Robe River Kuruma people to their country."

The area is only part of the total claim, which covers about 11,925sq km, with the remainder yet to be decided upon.

"It has been a long 20-year journey for us and although we still have more work to do to achieve our Part B determination, today we celebrate the recognition of our country and culture," traditional owner Sara Slattery said.

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