Ned Kelly tracker in clan battle

TITLE: Frances Gala, left, and Chrissy Doherty at Brisbane’s federal court after filing Ms Gala’s claim over the Native Title applications for Fraser Island and Hervey Bay region.
TITLE: Frances Gala, left, and Chrissy Doherty at Brisbane’s federal court after filing Ms Gala’s claim over the Native Title applications for Fraser Island and Hervey Bay region.

A BUTCHULLA elder's visit to the Federal Court in Brisbane has sparked a new battle among tribal clans, with Ned Kelly's legendary black tracker at the centre of the latest skirmish.

“I chose to file an interested party claim at the Federal Court because I am fighting for the name of my great uncle Gary Owen, the Butchulla tracker who helped capture Ned Kelly,” Aunty Frances Gala said yesterday.

“There are currently two Butchulla applications for more than 8500sq km of Hervey Bay land and sea and for Fraser Island, and they are registered with the Native Title Tribunal.

“The time frame to lodge the interested party claim runs out on January 5.

“None of those registered applicants speaks for our family. I cannot even establish if all of the applicants are Butchulla.

“I can't even find some of them.

“They haven't so far had to prove their genealogy.

“And I certainly know mine. The Butchulla part of our family can be tracked back at least several hundred years and we have a past, present and future connectivity to this region. We've never moved from here since Captain Cook sailed past.

“So I've decided to fight.”

This new tussle among the Butchulla clans comes after years of bickering and court actions over local Native Title claims.

All 13 of the original applicants, including Ms Gala, were removed from the first application. Some of them were elders.

“It's all about money,” Ms Gala said. “They make the money when someone wants to build on the land and has to pay them for anthropology and archaeology searches.

“I want no money. For me this is just a matter of principle and if the tribunal accepts my claim I will be allowed to watch the applicants every step of the way.

“They came in on the shirt tails of our elders.”

The Chronicle was yesterday unable to contact the applicants on the two claims. Local elders said some lived in Brisbane and Gympie and that others “have recently arrived here”.

“I have no faith in the Native Tribunal,” a Hervey Bay-based former tribunal team leader said.

“I am also Butchulla,” Chrissy Doherty said. “I have helped Aunty Frances file this claim at the Federal Court because it is her right.

“She is protecting the heritage of her family, her mother Maidie Owen, who was Gary Owen's daughter, and Gary Owen himself. He was one of this nation's most famous indigenous.”

Ms Doherty said Aborigines were being treated as “puppets on a string” by the Native Title legislation.

“The shackles used to be visible on our people, but now they're invisible but still there.

“But you just have to keep fighting even though you're fighting within white man's laws.”

Mackie Burns, a Butchulla elder who is not one of the applicants on the claims, said lawyers were coming to the Fraser Coast in the new year to test the genealogy of the applicants.

Canberra barrister George Villaflor said yesterday he would be happy to come to the Fraser Coast early next year to hold a public forum on Native Title.

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