Eastern Marr and Gunditjmara peoples granted native title in South West Victoria

On July 27th The Gunditjmara and Eastern Maar peoples were y granted native title ownership of Deen Maar Island, also known as Lady Julia Percy Island, and 4000 hectares of Crown land between Dunkeld and Yambuk on Victoria's south-west coast. The announcement came after a 15 year long legal struggle. The decision was handed down by Justice North at a special hearing of the Federal Court held at the Yambuk.

Elders from the Gunditjmara and Easter Maar where quoted in the Warnabool Standard. These quotes are included below:

Gunditjmara elder John Lovett was part of the tribe's first application for native title in 1996 and said since then the process had been "one hell of a long struggle." "Today is very, very, very significant day for the two Gunditjmara mobs, and this morning is a morning that will go down in the annals of history," Mr Lovett said. "Not just in south-west Victoria, but for all indigenous people." While the Eastern Marr and Gunditjmara people have always been sure of their identity and their land, the native title shows a final recognition of where they belong as a people, Mr Lovett said. "We never lost our pride or connection to the country. "This morning I put on this red shirt to remind myself of what was lost, the red blood that was shed to try and resist white settlement. "It also reminds us of the Gunditjmara blood that is still running through both camps today."

For Eastern Maar spokesman Geoff Clark, yesterday ended the hardship his people had endured over the past 150 years at the Framlingham mission. "Today breaks the chains of that oppression, it takes us off the mission and gives us recognition of our proper right in this country," Mr Clark said. "The fact that acknowledgement has come gives rise to us turning back the tide of history. "We sit by the lake and the blood of our people has flowed (through) that lake. "We've now put our footprints back into the sand and these young people will carry the spirit of our struggle and that recognition into the future."

Eastern Maar elder Robbie Lowe said the deliverance of native title was significant to all Aboriginal people. "It means a hell of a lot," Mr Lowe said. "We've been striving at this for years and to finally get that recognition is a great achievement. "We're very proud and a lot of work has gone in behind the scenes, right from day one. "Without the old people who have passed on before seeing this happen, we wouldn't be fighting for what we believe in."

More media coverage of the event can be found at Treaty Republic