Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Walking Together – towards Makarrata

Posted on 29 May, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Nalderun have sent through a timely article, highlighting the history of native title, land rights and acknowledging country. The article was written Floria Maschek, an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”. Please see the article below, provided kindly by Nalderun.


WALKING TOGETHER – towards Makarrata

Makarrata = ‘coming together after a struggle, facing the facts of wrongs and living again in peace.’

Mabo, native title, land rights and acknowledging Country

Pardalotes are busy under the newly replaced eaves outside my window. The beautiful birds may be looking to build a nest there. I consider my family’s journey to this place, struggles and privileges that brought us to Djaara Country and our impacts on land and life. Connections of ‘Country’ are inseparable from First People’s culture and lore. I think about how this relates to autonomy, community, resilience and well-being. With respect to the elders past and present, their sovereignty never ceded, I acknowledge Country.

In my second contribution to Walking Together, I revisit the topic of native title and land rights. Mabo Day on June the 3rd during Reconciliation Week, is the anniversary of a momentous turning point in the land rights movement, acknowledging First People’s ongoing connections to their lands and culture. 

The far reaching Frontier Wars that occurred after 1788 resulted in vast displacement of First Nations people. Much truth telling is needed, but awareness is building. We know First Peoples have defended their rights to their lands, waters and self determination since the beginning of colonisation. 

During the 19th and 20th centuries many were forced onto missions, stations and reserves, working under horrendous conditions. There were many deaths and family separations. Culture and language were usually disallowed. This occurred under government ‘protection’ boards. Forced into these areas, some eventually obtained land leases as happened locally in the 1840s in Franklinford. However almost all that lived here were then moved onto Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve.

In 1966 hundreds of Gurindji Peoples walked off Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory in protest. In 1975 the commonwealth government transferred land to them in a historic first. The Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act was established, leading to further hand backs. Some states followed, introducing land rights legislations, though greatly limiting lands that could be claimed. 

In 1992 The Mabo Case, mounted by five Torres Strait Islander Meriam People including Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo, was successful in overturning the myth of ‘Terra Nullius’ (Land belonging to no one). The High Court recognised they had lived on their lands for thousands of years according to their own laws and customs. In 1993 the Native Title Act was passed with a promise to ‘rectify past injustices’. 

In the years that followed, a series of High Court decisions tested the implementation of Native Title legislation. Claims proved to be very difficult. Those that had been removed off their lands now had to demonstrate their People’s continuous practice of lore and customs there since pre-colonisation.

In 1996 in response to the Wik Peoples of Cape York Peninsula, the High Court Wik Decision ruled pastoral leases of crown land could co-exist with Native Title. These leases could now be more easily preserved over the rights of First Peoples. The extinguishment regime was furthered in the Native Title Amendment Act of 1998 and the 10 point plan. 

The Timber Creek decision of 2019 was the first time the High Court considered and confirmed how compensations should be assessed for cultural and economic losses from violation of native title rights. 

The South West Native Title Settlement was approved by the Noongar Nation in Western Australia. It was described by some as ‘Australia’s first treaty’, being the most comprehensive and largest native title settlement yet, commencing in 2021. Here is a mere glimpse into a very complex history. The ideals of Mabo are yet to be fully recognised. I centre my acknowledgements, hopes and efforts in the truth of Mabo. 

I am always moved by the strength of First Peoples and the love poured into self determination and community. Here locally, Nalderun, with the support of Friends of Nalderun and the broader community, are an inspiration as they strengthen connections throughout many areas of community, culture, grow proud generations, connect to the land and waters and nurture Country. I look forward to sharing more as I learn. 

Mabo day is on the last day of Reconciliation Week running from 27th May – 3rd June. Sorry Day – May 26th. Look out for the guide offering many locally run Nalderun events. The Reconciliation Week stall and exhibition will be on again this year at the Castlemaine Market Building.  


Floria Maschek is an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). FoN members are guided by Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation and are diverse individuals and representatives of many local community networks, supporting Nalderuns visions and work. Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation supports the Aboriginal Community and is led by Aboriginal people while providing many learning and cultural opportunities to the broader community. Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”. 

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