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OODNADATTA APPEAL JUDGMENT – ARABANA NO 2 PART 2 NATIVE TITLE CLAIM

On 14 August 2023 the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia delivered its judgment in relation to the Oodnadatta Common Overlap proceedings. A copy of the judgment will be published by the Federal Court shortly. As you will recall, this court case relates to the Arabana native title claim which was overlapped by Walka Wani claims over the Oodnadatta Common. A trial was held in 2019 – 2021 with a decision delivered by Justice White on 21 December 2021. As you will recall, unfortunately Justice White dismissed the Arabana claim and awarded the Walka Wani native title despite making findings that the area was Arabana Country at sovereignty. The Arabana claimants appealed this decision in 2022. There were two appeals involved in this proceeding: one against the Walka Wani native title win, and one against the decision to dismiss the Arabana claim. The appeal was heard by three judges, Justices Charlesworth, Rangiah and O’Bryan over 3 days in November 2022. All three judges agreed that the appeal against the decision to grant native title to the Walka Wani should be allowed and orders were made that the Walka Wani native title determination be overturned. This means that the Walka Wani no longer have native title rights over the Oodnadatta claim area, and their claims for native title has been dismissed. In relation to the Arabana claim, two of the three judges found that the appeal made by Arabana should be dismissed and that therefore the decision that no native title be granted to Arabana stands. One judge disagreed. He found that there was errors and the Arabana appeal should be allowed, and that the matter should be remitted to a Judge for further submissions. In the Full Court, the decision of the majority of judges is the final decision. This means that the Arabana appeal was unfortunately unsuccessful. The judgment is being considered carefully and we are seeking further legal advice. Regardless of the appeals, the finding by Justice White in the first instance on 21 December 2021 after the trial of the fact that Oodnadatta was Arabana Country at sovereignty (before while people came) was not challenged by any appeal and still stands. While we have not been able to overturn the overall decision about native title, we know that this is Arabana Country, and under our laws always has been Arabana Country, and will continue to be Arabana Country. We will keep you updated on any further actions.

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