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Boonthamurra Native Title Determination

Native title is a form of land rights that recognises Aboriginal Australian’s ongoing connection to Country, and our right to access our country to maintain this connection. To gain recognition of our native title rights and interests, the Boonthamurra People embarked on a nine-year journey through the Australian Federal Court,  presenting physical, oral and written evidence of our continuing culture and connection to Country.

On 25 June, 2015, the Boonthamurra People’s native title rights and interests were formally recognized in a consent determination made by the Federal Court. The determination of non-exclusive native title covered an area of more than 23 400 square kilometres of land and waters in the Channel country of South West Queensland, within the Quilpie, Barcoo, and Bulloo shires, and encompassing the town of Eromanga, and various pastoral stations.

First lodged in 2006, our native title journey highlighted the unbroken connection of Boonthamurra People to our traditional country, first documented by pastoralists in the 1860s, and surviving against all the odds of colonization and the frontier violence and forced removals this involved.

Native Title Rights and Interests

The Boonthamurra People’s native title rights and interests include the right to:

  • access and travel on our lands;
  • camp and erect temporary shelters;
  • hunt, fish and gather traditional natural resources;
  • take, use and exchange natural resources for non-commercial purposes;
  • conduct cultural ceremonies;
  • hold meetings;
  • maintain and protect places of importance and areas of significance from physical harm;
  • teach on country the physical and spiritual attributes of the land;
  • light fires for cooking or camping; and
  • take and use the water for non-commercial purposes.

These rights can be exercised by Boonthamurra individuals, groups or families, within the native title determination area (Boonthamurra Country). They also form the basis for negotiations between the Boonthamurra Native Title Aboriginal Corporation and proponents who wish to do things on Boonthamurra Country that are likely to impede the exercise of these rights.

Boonthamurra Timeline

A timeline of key events in the history of the Boonthamurra People follows:


Boonthamurra People lived on Country in accordance with their culture and values, and their own legal, social and political structures. They cared for Country as those before them had, engaging with neighbouring tribes for trade, marriage and ceremonies.



British settlers arrive in Australia and begin to spread across the country, claiming it as their own.



The first recorded European encounter with Boonthamurra People was by Sir Thomas Mitchell, as he wandered through Boonthamura Country seeking an overland route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

1840s - 1900s

The Frontier Wars

Boonthamurra Warriors, like many Aboriginal Warriors across the nation, engaged in violent clashes with European pastoralists and police in an attempt to prevent the appropriation of their Country and the murder of their People.

Records reveal that some key dates include:

  • 1848: the Native Police were established across the region, as a branch of the Northern NSW colonial police. They were made up of displaced Aboriginal men and women and lead by European officers, and were especially known for their violence against Aboriginal People.
  • 1863: Records reveal that a group of painted Aboriginal men, likely to have been Boonthamurra Warriors, successfully warded off pastoralist Vincent Dowling by wounding him with spears, after he wandered into Boonthamurra Country scoping out land for grazing opportunities.
  • 1870 – 1872: Fighting back against colonial violence, a number of Aboriginal Warriors from across the region killed eight European men on separate occasions.
  • 1872:  A group of Boonthamurra People were massacred by pastoralists and the Native Police, in the Grey Ranges. The massacre was committed after two European pastoralists were killed by Aboriginal Warriors in the northern part of Boonthamurra Country.


Queensland is born

The state of ‘Queensland’ was declared as a distinct colony, and the Queensland Parliament was established. Aboriginal People were not yet considered ‘subjects of the Queen’ and so despite the fact that Boonthamurra Country fell within the asserted jurisdiction of the Queensland Parliament, the Boonthamurra People were not entitled to vote for members of the Parliament. 

1867 - 1900s

Stolen Country

As pastoralists and prospectors ventured further inland, Boonthamurra Country become a permanent home to small towns and pastoral stations.

Key dates include:

  • 1867: Pastoralists Patrick Durack, Michael Durack and John Costello ventured into Boonthamurra Country – guided by ‘local Aboriginal people’ likely to have been Boonthamurra People – and set up cattle stations at Thylungra waterhole and Kyabra Creek.
  • 1870: The towns of Eulo and Charleville were established in the region by this point, and Boonthamurra People had lost command over large parts of their Country: pastoral stations usurped country to the south and south west of Boonthamurra Country, as well as within it.
  • 1870: European miners and prospectors represented a further threat to Boonthamurra Country, after a discovery of deposits of the beautiful opal stone near Advale saw the introduction of mining to the area just east of Boonthamurra Country.
  • 1874: Patrick Tully established Ray Station, in Boonthamurra Country, where a lot of Boonthamurra People who are alive today lived and worked.
  • 1884: By this time, sheep and cattle stations in the region were booming and had dispossessed Boonthamurra People and neighbouring Peoples of significant sections of their Country. Thylungra Station, for example, held over 30,000 cattle.



Amidst the violence and dispossession, Boonthamurra People continued to celebrate their Country and culture.  Records suggest that Boonthamurra People travelled south this year for the ‘big fellow’ corroboree.

In the year 1900, further records suggest that  Boonthamurra People were likely to have joined a large corroboree held at Thargomindah, attended by approximately 70 Aboriginal People from across the region.

Corroborees brought Boonthamurra People together with neighbouring Peoples, to sing, dance, exchange stories and share wisdom. It is likely they would have been held regularly throughout the 1800s.


1897 - 1970s

Removal, Stolen Generations and Stolen Wages

In 1897, the ‘Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act’ was introduced, which gave the government unprecedented power to control Aboriginal People’s lives. This eventually resulted in the forced removal of Boonthamurra People (along with many other Aboriginal Peoples) from their country, culture and family.

Records show that key dates include:

  • 1900: 25 Boonthamurra People, including 3 children, were taken from their country and sent hundreds of kilometres away to Durundur settlement. The government particularly targeted the old people and children who were part-European.
  • 1902: 14 more Boonthamurra People were removed from Country at Eromanga, Mt Margaret and Nocundra
  • 1902: Boonthamurra ancestors, including a woman named Mormy who was to become the wife of Boonthamurra apical ancestor ‘Kangaroo’, had been sent to live and work on Ray Station by this time. Pastoralist Francis Tully bought Terachy Station in Boonthamurra Country, next to Ray Station.
  • 1919: The Queensland government established the ‘Aboriginal Provident Fund’ which the government paid a percentage of all Aboriginal People’s wages into. The idea was that this Fund would be used to pay a pension to unemployed Aboriginal People, but the government regularly took money from it for other purposes.
  • 1920-1960: Boonthamurra ancestors Tiger Ray, Tippo Ray, Jack O’Lantern, Dick Reid, Dick Ray, Rosie Dick, Pontius Pilot, Rosie Braddle, Witchery Ray, Mickey Ray, Alec Jacobs, Johnson and Docherty worked on pastoral stations in Boonthamurra Country during this period. However, despite their expert knowledge of Country, Aboriginal workers were only paid an amount equal to one eight of the award wage.
  • 1939 – 1971: The Queensland Parliament continued to pass legislation to govern the lives of local Aboriginal People, and establish and run Aboriginal Reserves.



Australia officially become its own country. 

All Aboriginal People across the nation were excluded from voting for members of the Australian Federal Parliament, who continued to deny Aboriginal ownership of and connection to Country, and refused to recognise their complex and unique social, political and legal systems.

1965 - 1992


During the second half of the 20th Century, both State and Federal governments began to pass legislation that meant Aboriginal People across Australia were included in the Australian polity.

Some key dates include:

  • 1965: Boonthamurra People, and all other Aboriginal People living in Queensland, became entitled to vote in State elections. Queensland was the last State in Australia to make this change.
  • 1967: Boonthamurra People, and all Aboriginal People across Australia, became entitled to vote in Federal elections when the Australian public voted in a referendum to change the Australian Constitution. The change meant that Aboriginal People were now counted as Australian citizens, and were entitled to vote for members of Australian Federal Parliament. It also allowed the Federal Parliament to make laws for Aboriginal Australians for the first time, where previously these laws had been made by the various States.
  • 1975: The Australian Federal Parliament enacted the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) which prohibited discrimination against people on the basis of their race for the first time in Australian history. This Act was an important factor that encouraged the recognition of native title law by the High Court, because it suggested that it was no longer legally acceptable to deny Aboriginal People’s rights to Country simply because they ‘owned’ land in a non-European way.



Native title was recognised and incorporated into Australian law by the High Court of Australia, after the now-famous Eddie Mabo challenged the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland when they tried to claim ownership of Country in the Murray Islands of the Torres Strait. 

The High Court handed down the famous Mabo (No 2) decision, which overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius and officially recognised Aboriginal Australian’s unique connection to Country, as well as the bundle of legal rights that arose from this connection. 


The Native Title Act

The Australian Federal Parliament enacted the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) to create rules and processes for Traditional Owners to follow in order to prove that their particular native title rights and interests still existed. The Native Title Act also set out how to identify where there had been ‘extinguishment’ of native title.

The Native Title Act paved the way for Boonthamurra People to finally regain recognition as the custodians of their Country.


The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act

The Queensland Parliament enacted the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld), which gave Boonthamurra People, and other Aboriginal Peoples across Queensland, the legal right to negotiate Cultural Heritage Management Agreements in particualr circumstances. These agreements are often made with large mining companies and other proponents undertaking work on Boonthamurra Country. 

This Act enables Boonthamurra People to have a say in the identification, preservation and management of their cultural heritage, which includes things such as artefacts, sacred sites and scarred trees.


Boonthamurra native title determination application

The Boonthamurra People lodged their native title claim in the Federal Court of Australia.


Registration of Boonthamurra's Native Title Claim

Boonthamurra’s native title claim was registered on the National Native Title Register, giving Boonthamurra People the right to comment on certain activities that occurred on Country, and the right to negotiate agreements in relation to other activities such as prospecting and mining.


Acceptance of Connection to Country

An important milestone in the native title claim process was achieved when the Boonthamurra People presented enough evidence to convince the State of Queensland to agree that we have maintained our connection to Country, despite generations of colonial violence and dispossession. 


Incorporation of the Boonthamurra PBC

The Boonthamurra Native Title Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC was established and registered with ORIC, in anticipation of a positive determination of native title for the Boonthamurra People. 


Boonthamurra People's Native Title Determination

The Boonthamurra People’s native title rights and interests were formally recognised by the Federal Court of Australia at an on-Country consent determination hearing, in Eromanga.