The Timber Creek Compensation Case

‘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. 

[Image: Alan Griffiths, ‘Timber Creek’, considered in 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.

Read the Case Note

Further Reading 

Timber Creek compensation case sets new precedent – ANTaR Blog – Clare Graham-Stewart

Native title year in review 2018 compensation update Timber Creek

CAEPR WORKING PAPER: POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF THE TIMBER CREEK DECISION M C DILLON

A Methodology for the Calculation of Native Title Compensation

Timber Creek redress precedent - The options for First Nations

AIATSIS DISCUSSION PAPER: HOW CAN JUDGES CALCULATE NATIVE TITLE COMPENSATION

Timber Creek: the most significant native title decision since Mabo - Insight - MinterEllison

High Court awards NT native title holders $2.5m, partly for 'spiritual harm'

Timber Creek decision shouldn't inspire land title fear mongering

What next after ‘most significant’ native title decision since Mabo

[Victoria River from the Escarpment Lookout, Timber Creek – Photo: Red Nomad]