Native Title – Ewamian People
The Ewamian native title determined area covers 28.671 km2 of the Etheridge Shire west of the Great Dividing Range. It incorporates the towns of Mt Surprise, Georgetown, Kidston, Einasleigh and Forsayth. The native title area is most of our traditional country.
Native Title – Ewamian People
The Ewamian Peoples’ native title applications - Ewamian People #2  (QUD6009/99 and QUD6018/01) were successfully determined by the Federal Court of Australia on 26 November 2013.
Native Title is a recognition by the Australian Government of the rights that we have in country, these are based on the rights that we had before Europeans colonised our land.
Native title is not tenure, it is derived from when our ancestors owned all of the land that they lived on and were spiritually connected to. What is recognised today as native title continuing to exist are the rights that have not been extinguished or removed by non-Indigenous interests in land.
Native Title can be ownership, this is usually where no tenure exists over an area or the land was dedicated as Aboriginal land, for example some of the old mining towns that no longer exist had no tenure when our native title was determined because the people who lived there years ago left when the mines closed and did not sell or keep payments for their tenure so it reverted to State land.
In cases where native title does not amount to full ownership – Native Title is a bundle of rights.
It can be any of these rights; to live on, to access, to hunt, to fish, to camp, to gather and to practice native title customs on traditional country. These rights include the right to teach and maintain areas of importance to Ewamian People. These rights, and many more, have been formally recognised by the Federal Court of Australia.
Access to country for Ewamian People
For Ewamian People this can be challenging as we do not all live on Ewamian Country, however there is a strong sense of belonging and connection to country among Ewamian people that is embedded in us and has been passed on by our ancestors and native title now gives us the ability to re-connect and strengthen our connection to country.
Having Native Title Determination means that as Ewamian People we have the RIGHT to assert our Native title rights and interest on this country and access and use most of the land on the Ewamian determination area, including nearly all the pastoral stations. Ewamian People have a right to access and camp on most pastoral stations that are under the native title determination area, however you may need to tell the pastoral lease holder when you are going on country to ensure that any activity does not impact on their operations.
We have many reserves and exclusive native title (USL) blocks that Ewamian People can use. This means that NO ONE EXCEPT EWAMIAN PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED ON SOME OF THESE AREAS.
There are blocks at Georgetown (Sandy Creek), Cumberland (near Georgetown), Einasleigh (on the Copperfield River), Mt Surprise and Forsayth and on the Gilbert River near Gilberton Station. If you want to go to these places and need more information or maps please contact the office. Ewamian people are ALWAYS welcome at Talaroo. If you wish to visit or camp at Talaroo please contact the office. There are camp sites on the Einasleigh River as well as the Memorial Park campgrounds where there are toilets and showers and kitchen facilities (coming soon in 2023).
How we make decisions about native title
Through our PBC, Ewamian Peoples Aboriginal Corporation (EPAC) we are obligated to protect and manage the native title rights on land by working with stakeholders and building strong relationships in the community. EPAC is the representative for the native title holders, and all native title decisions must be made by the Ewamian People.
Any decision that affects our native title rights and interests is not a decision that can be made by one Ewamian person or a group of people. It must be a decision that is agreed to by the Ewamian native title holders at community meetings. In order for land development projects to proceed on country we will often seek to extinguish or impair our native title rights with the developer or landholder, for example to upgrade their tenure from pastoral lease to freehold. The surrender of native title over an area of land or waters means that it is extinguished forever and can never be revived. Given the long hard road to have our native title recognised, Ewamian people are not prepared to surrender it voluntarily and are always open to discussing alternative options with landholders.
The Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) provides a process for agreement making called an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), this is an Agreement that is a bit different from normal agreements because it applies to all the native title holders including future native title holders once it is registered.
An ILUA is always a voluntary process no one can make the native title holders agree to a development.
A mine can proceed without the consent of the native title holders – but this will mean that the miners will have to pay compensation to the native title holders. In some cases, if the Ewamian People do not agree with a proposal the Government can do a Compulsory Acquisition process, but this also means that compensation must be paid.