Kunin (Native Title) Aboriginal Corporation
The Kunin (Native Title) Aboriginal Corporation administers land on behalf of the Yawuru people of Western Australia. Their ownership was recognised in the Rubibi determination of November 2001. This determination arose from an application for native title made in 1998. The Applicants claimed exclusive possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of an Aboriginal law ground for ceremonial and ritual purposes. While part of a wider campaign to recognise Yawuru native title, this area of land was claimed first due to the importance of the law ground in question for the Aboriginal community.
This claim was litigated before the Federal Court. The main questions for the Court to determine were:
- whether native title exists and has not been extinguished, and
- whether the Court had a role in resolving intra-communal disputes about native title rights and interests.
The first applicants are senior Yawuru Law Men, who brought the claim on behalf of the Rubibi claimant group. The Rubibi group encompasses members of an Aboriginal community known by various names: they adopted the name ‘Rubibi’, meaning waterhole, as it was a name generally associated with the Broome Aboriginal community.
The Court held that native title did exist in the claim area, and was held by the claimant group. Their native title included the exclusive right of occupation, use, possession and enjoyment of the claim area for ceremonial purposes. In making this decision, Justice Merkel noted that:
[T]he native title established to exist in Kunin epitomises one of the main reasons why native title has been recognised and protected … The Rubibi applicants … have substantially maintained their traditional connection to Kunin as an Aboriginal law ground. As a consequence the NTA is able to recognise and protect a key facet of the traditional law and culture of the Yawuru people.