Battle over native title land to be waged in Federal Court

NATIVE title royalties for a group of families in south-west Queensland will be tied up in the Federal Court until a long-running battle over entitlement is resolved.

In 2008, biological descendants of Nellie Edwards, Combarngo Bill, Weribone Jack Senior and Mary Weribone lodged a claim for native title relating to land in the Roma and St George region.

An anthropologist advised in 2011 that descendants of Dolly Clark could also be linked to land subject to the native title claim.

A dispute over whether the descendants of Dolly Clark were actually added as apical ancestors to the native title claim has been in and out of legal hearings in the Federal Court.

Descendants of Dolly Clark, referred to as the Binge applicants in court, argue they were added to the claim as apical ancestors at a 2011 meeting.

But other descendants, known as the Mailman applicants, claim that the change was not valid.

In a judgment handed down on Monday, Federal Court Judge Steven Rares ordered any monies received by any native title claim applicants be handed to the court for safe keeping until the matter is resolved.

Mining companies have watched the matter intently as they would be required to pay out compensation as a result of any native title declaration.

In a written judgment, Judge Rares reasoned it was necessary to protect any assets members of the claim group received as a result of the court proceedings.

He said those assets should be made available to the group found to benefit from the native title claim.

Judge Rares also found a meeting held in 2011 to inform claim members about the move to include descendants of Dolly Clark was invalid.

The meeting, held in Toowoomba, were hard to reach for many family members who resided in Roma.

Notice of the meeting placed in local newspapers did not accurately spell out the Dolly Clark issue to be addressed for claim group members, Judge Rares found.

As a result, a meeting which passed the resolution to add Dolly Clark as an ancestor in the claim description, was invalid and so was the resolution, Judge Rares found.

"The position now is that there is no longer an applicant authorised by the claim group to make or prosecute the existing application and deal with matters arising in relation to it," Judge Rares stated.

"A new meeting of the claim group must be held to authorise a replacement applicant."

Judge Rares ordered any money paid to the applicants be directed to the Federal Court Registrar, where it will be held for the native title claim group in the future.

He also ordered the native title claim members participate in mediation to decide how a new applicant will be appointed.

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