Landmark native title compo payout upheld

Lucy Hughes Jones

A historic $3.3 million native title compensation payout has been mostly upheld by the Federal Court, which dismissed an appeal from the Northern Territory government.

In August 2016, the landmark Timber Creek case determined for the first time how to award compensation to traditional owners who have lost their native title rights.

The Ngaliwurru and Nungali people who hold native title over the tiny Timber Creek, 600km southwest of Darwin, won the case.

They were awarded $512,000 in damages for economic loss, almost $1.5 million for interest and another $1.3 million for pain and suffering caused by a loss of attachment to the land.

The decision is expected to trigger several similar multimillion-dollar claims around the country against governments and mining companies.

Thursday's ruling upheld most of the original decision but reduced the economic value of the native title rights and interests from 80 per cent to 65 per cent of the land's freehold value, which the Northern Land Council said was "disappointing".

Native title, which is different from land rights, gives indigenous people the right to hunt and fish, visit sacred places and conduct cultural ceremonies on the land, but does not give them rights over mining resources.