‘Makalamayi’ or Timber Creek is located 285 kilometres west of Katherine in the Northern Territory and is known for its rugged outback countryside, fishing, and ancient boab trees. The Ngaliwurru and Nungali Aboriginal people share a deep spiritual and historical connection to the traditional land where they live and work.
In 2006, the Ngaliwurru and Nungali peoples won non-exclusive native title rights to the area, considered as lesser rights than freehold, but these rights were taken to have been extinguished by the grant of leases and construction on the land.
Alan Griffiths’ ‘Timber Creek’ was considered by the court as evidence of connection to Country, and locations of sacred sites and Dreamings within the Timber Creek area.
In what is said to be one of the most significant cases since the Wik and Mabo High Court decisions, the Griffiths v Northern Territory case became the first to seek compensation for the extinguishment of native title rights and interests under the Native Title Act (1993). The case challenged the limitations of the western compensatory process by substantiating loss of culture experienced through the consequences native title extinguishment. The case highlighted the required assessment for native title compensation cases to be bifurcated and assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Cases such as Mabo, Wik and Griffiths have placed the spotlight on the vulnerability of native title and land rights when left unmediated over time. This calls for better established definitions and measures in order for the Native Title Act to legally protect Indigenous land, culture, and rights, whilst also enabling those who breach these rights to be held accountable.