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Boonthamurra Native Title Determination

Native title is a form of Indigenous land rights that recognises Indigenous 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.

Boonthamurra People

Boonthamurra people are the contemporary descendants of two apical ancestors: Kangaroo and Dick Ray.

Boonthamurra Language

Boonthamurra (Punthamara) is a dialect of a language linguists call ‘Wangkumara-Punthamara’ or ‘the Wilson River language’, because it was spoken in the areas west and north of the Wilson River.

The dialects that make up this language include Wangkumara and Punthamara, as well as others that are no longer spoken, however the difference between the dialects is mostly a matter of pronunciation.

The Wangkumara-Punthamara language is related to the Karnic group of languages associated with the Lake Eyre Basin.

Boonthamurra Culture

Our culture and values are built around our connection and responsibility to Country, and to each other. The peoples of the Lake Eyre Basin, aside from being connected linguistically and geographically (via the rivers and their tributaries flowing into the basin) were also connected culturally, through the sharing of Mura stories, ceremonies (including initiations and other gatherings), intermarriages, and trade of goods like ochre and pituri.

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.

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.


The Frontier Wars


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.

The state of ‘Queensland’ was declared as a distinct colony, and the Queensland Parliament was established. Aboriginal People were not entitled to vote for members of parliament.



Pastoralist Vincent Dowling wandered through Boonthamurra Country, scoping out land for grazing opportunities. He was approached by a group of 20 painted Aboriginal warriors, after disturbing a camp, and days later he was speared in the head.

Patrick Durack, Michael Durack and John Costello wandered into Boonthamurra country, guided by ‘local Aboriginal people’ who may have been Boonthamurra People. They appropriated parcels of land at Thylungra waterhole and Kyabra creek to establish cattle stations.



The towns of Eulo and Charleville were established in the region by this point, and pastoral stations usurped country to the south and south west of Boonthamurra Country, as well as within it.

Discovery of deposits of the beautiful opal stone near Advale saw the introduction of mining to the area just east of Boonthamurra Country.


1870 - 1872

Fighting back against colonial violence, a number of Aboriginal warriors from across the region killed a total of eight European men on separate occasions.

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.



Patrick Tully established Ray Station, in Boonthamurra Country

By this time, sheep and cattle stations in the region were booming. Thylungra Station, for example, held over 30,000 cattle.



Records suggest that Boonthamurra People travelled south this year for the ‘big fellow’ corroboree

The 'Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act' was introduced, which gave the government unprecedented power to control local Aboriginal People’s lives.



A corroboree held at Thargomindah bought together approximately 70 Aboriginal people, including Boonthamurra People, from across the region

Removal and Stolen Wages


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.


Australia became a country, as opposed to a British colony. All Aboriginal People across the nation were excluded from voting for members of the Australian Federal Parliament.


Records show that 14 more Boonthamurra people were removed from Country at Eromanga, Mt Margaret and Nocundra.


Boonthamurra people who worked on pastoral stations were paid an amount equal to one eight of the regular award rate: five shillings per month. This wage was set under the ‘Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act’.


Boonthamurra ancestors, including a woman named Mormy who was to become the wife of Boonthamurra apical ancestor ‘Kangaroo’, lived on Ray Station at this time.


Pastoralist Francis Tully bought Terachy Station in Boonthamurra Country, next to Ray Station.


The Aboriginal Provident Fund was established, which the government paid part of 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.


The government increased the amount that they took from Aboriginal people’s wages to put into the Aboriginal Provident Fund.


Aboriginal workers, including Boonthamurra People, were paid 31% of the award wage.


Boonthamurra People became entitled to vote! The Queensland Parliament finally allowed Aboriginal People to vote in state elections. It was the last state in Australia to do so.

1939 - 1971

The Queensland Parliament passed a number of Acts to govern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Aboriginal reserves.

The Long Road to Self-Determination


A national referendum resulted in a change to the Australian Constitution so that all Aboriginal People were now counted as Australian citizens, and entitled to vote in Federal elections.


Four young Aboriginal men set up a protest on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, demanding land rights for all Indigenous Australians. This protest attracted Aboriginal People from around the nation, who came to join the permanent protest-site now known as the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.


The Australian Federal Parliament enacted the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which prohibited discrimination against people based of their race. This was an important precursor to the recognition of native title, because it highlighted that it was not fair or legal to take away Aboriginal People's rights to their Country simply because they connected in an 'Aboriginal' way.


The Queensland parliament enacted the Aboriginal Land Act, which allowed land to be transferred to collectives of Aboriginal People - a Queensland first.


The Queensland parliament enacted the Aboriginal Land Act, which allowed land to be transferred to collectives of Aboriginal People - a Queensland first.


The famous ‘Mabo’ decision was handed down by the High Court of Australia, finally affording recognition of Aboriginal People’s connection to country as well as their complex social, legal and political structures.


The Queensland Parliament enacted the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003, under which the Boonthamurra PBC is able to negotiate Cultural Heritage Management Agreements with large mining companies undertaking work on Boonthamurra Country.


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


Boonthamurra’s native title claim was registered on the National Native Title Register.


An important milestone in the native title claim process was achieved, when the Boonthamurra People presented enough evidence to convince the State of Queensland that we maintained a continued connection to Country.


Indigenous Land Use Agreements with a number of proponents were authorised by the Boonthamurra Native Title Claim Group, as part of the native title claim process.


The Boonthamurra Native Title Aboriginal Corporation was incorporated and registered with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.


The Boonthamurra People's native title rights and interests were formally recognised by the Federal Court of Australia at a Consent Determination hearing.