Day of Celebration or Sadness for Quandamooka People?

Quandamooka first nation spokesperson, Dale Ruska, talks with Eliza and Ian on the Paradigm Shift (4ZZZ 102.1 FM Brisbane Fridays 12 Noon) about the recent native Title declaration over Minjerribah (Nth Stradbroke Island). He explains his disappointment and outlines its effects on his people.

Interview with Dale Ruska (first part)

These are the questions that Dale Ruska addresses:

  1. What rights will Quandamooka people have over Minjerribah (Nth Stradbroke island)?
  2. What economic activity (fishing, mining, water extraction, tourism, the arts) will Quandamooka people be able to conduct on Minjerribah?
  3. What rights will be permitted and what rights have been extinguished?
  4. What input did you have as a  claimant (a first nation person) in the (native title) determination?

Interview with Dale Ruska (second part)

  1. Was there informed consent to the native title determination by the Quandamooka people?
  2. There have been some changes on the island recently – for example (there has been) an extensive upgrade of the gorge walk at Point Lookout – who did that work and were the Quandamooka people consulted?

Interview with Dale Ruska (third part)

  1. There have been some changes on the island recently – for example there has been an extensive upgrade of the gorge work at point Lookout – who performed that work and were the Quandamooka people consulted?
  2. Can Quandamooka say what activities are performed on the land – especially the land subject to exclusive native title?
  3. Last weekend the state government put a full page  advertisement in the Australian newspaper naming (with colour photos of each person) various people who can take credit for ‘pursuing land justice’. As the original native title claimant (in this 16 year long struggle) why weren’t you included? How do you feel about that?
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Media Statement Dale Ruska                            3 July 2011

Day of celebration or sadness:

Quandamooka Native Title Consent Determination (4 July 2011), North Stradbroke Island

When you consider the meaning and significance of this day, from within the context of Australian Law and Colonial history, it is without a doubt monumental. All of the Aboriginal people who have committed their endeavours for many years and celebrate this day accomplishments deserve to be commended for their efforts.

The Quandamooka Aboriginal rights claim has a long history, there were attempts made by the people to have our rights legally recognised throughout all of the 1900’s. The Quandamooka Native Title claim being settled tomorrow was lodge by notice of intent just before the monumental Mabo decision was made by the High Court of Australia. Quandamooka was the third claim application made and accepted by Australian law after Mabo, but it became registered and subject to the Native Title Act.

Native Title has been received and utilised by Aboriginal people with mixed opinion, belief and reaction. Native Title and legal processes are administered and imposed by Australian Common Law on Aboriginal people who have very little control of its processes and outcomes. For many years, Native Title has caused unquestionable division and social unrest for many Aboriginal people throughout Australia.

The Quandamooka claim was lodged in 1991 with the original intent to obtain legal recognition through Australian law of our first nation sovereign rights as the original owners and people. Native Title facilitated shifting the goal posts for our people on many occasions by simply amending the Act to implement new rules. These rules were totally disadvantageous and disempowering for Aboriginal people and only allowed for one side to come out unquestionably favourable and more legally advantaged. Native Title involves two main interests, Australian common law interests and Aboriginal people. Through the history of Native Title claims across Australia, it is evident which interest has the upper hand. However, the power of might does not necessarily make it right and the truth will remain the truth.

When you fully consider the meaning and significance of this day from the context of the original first nations people, history (which stems from many millenniums of occupation and sovereign existence and struggle) cannot be considered as fair, equitable or just. For the little that has been accomplished, much more had to be relinquished by the Aboriginal people. Considering all that has occurred and resulted for Aboriginal people throughout Australian colonial and legal history has been severely enormous and consequently socially detrimental including the impacts and effects that have been experienced for generations by Aboriginal people and their place and the costs of the loss involving all aspects of our humanity.

For the last year or two, the Quandamooka Aboriginal peoples Native Title Indigenous Land Use Agreement development and authorization process has involved them constantly being reminded by their legal representatives of the threat of the risk of getting nothing at all if they do not accept what is being offered for Native Title settlement through agreement and consent.

The legal representatives of the Quandamooka people failed to represent the view of all Aboriginal people. Below is recent legal advice from the Quandamooka legal representatives received on 11 February 2011:

“Your concerns and objections with respect to the validation and compensation clauses particularly your assertions around sovereignty were noted at the meeting and whilst I acknowledge and truly understand the difficulty you and others might have in relation to the activities that the State may have invalidly carried out on country, the claim groups is faced with the uncomfortable fact that the State will not consent to your native title nor a benefits package for the Quandamooka people unless and until the group agrees to validate any of its invalid future acts and releases the State from any native title compensation liability”

Since the Act was enforced, many Aboriginal people have expressed their dissatisfaction and discontent towards Native Title legislation and processes, feeling that it is totally unfair and unjust. Many Aboriginal’s believe that the European colonisation of this nation was done by unauthorised forceful invasion. Further, that Australia’s common law history has involved and maintains the oppression of Aboriginal people and suppression of our First Nation Sovereignty. Last but not least, many feel that the Native Title act is a vehicle of injustice and is about the validating and legalising the many crimes and injustices committed against Aboriginal people and their places throughout European colonial history.

I quote prominent Aboriginal leader and elder, Gary Foley, “Native Title is not land rights, reconciliation is not justice.” Will this nation and its law ever accept fully and realise through just address the truth of its history?

When it is considered from the basis of fair equitable and proper justice, the historical case of Mabo addressed the issue of terra nullius. However, colonial history denies that there have been many attempts to conquer and suppress Aboriginal people with the use of force by way of an undeclared war to clear the country for colonisation. Aboriginal people have not received proper recognition or sufficient reparation and we have no Treaty.

Today not all Aboriginal people will be celebrating the Quandamooka claim determination. Not all Aboriginal people have consented to this consent determination, many feel a sense of anger, distress frustration and sadness. For the Aboriginal people that do not accept the decision of Australian Common Laws Quandamooka Native Title consent determination, we would like it recorded on the public record.

We do not all accept the consent determination of Quandamooka Native Title rights made by the Federal Court of Australia on 4 July 2011 as being settlement of our first nation sovereignty. We wish to have it noted that we fully legally reserve our first nation sovereign rights.

Dale Ruska
0438 199 473

Full interview with Dale Ruska (not split up)

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2 thoughts on “Day of Celebration or Sadness for Quandamooka People?

  1. Hello Dale,

    To answer the implied question in your media statement (above), I think that the Quandamooka people got ripped off in the Native Title consent organised by the Qld State Government recently.

    Since I interviewed you for the Workers BushTelegraph one year ago (July 2010) and you described what was going I have discovered that nearly everything you predicted then has come true.

    Also since that time I have walked over country and inspected mining leases on Minjerriba. I have seen the destruction by 40 years of sandmining, 4 Wheel drives, a whitefella business. I have witnessed this destruction personally having visited the island every year since the mid 1960s.

    Recently, I have walked up to Bippo Penbean and been along the Tripod Track and out along the beehive walk towards Flinders Beach as well as down to the southern most tip of the island walking around blue lake and along 17 mile swamp. Nearly every place I went was restricted access because of mining leases held currently by Sibelco Pty Ltd.

    I do not think that Native Title will ever bring an economic base for aboriginal people on Minjerriba or anywhere else in Australia – Native Title is about stripping Land Rights (in the economic sense) from Aboriginal people (and other people) and giving the land for the use and profit of the elites in the mining, pastoral and corporate Australia – all native title on Minjerriba gives the Quandamooka people is a seat at the table where the big interest groups (i.e. mining, private property, state & federal government, tourist industry moguls) will win out every time.

    I think that the way country is owned and used in Australia is wrong. Country has been stolen from aboriginal people and from ordinary people. For example the Ned Kelly legend is about squatters getting the best country and the poor people getting small blocks (‘selections’) that were not economically viable.

    I would like to to see proper land rights for aboriginal people and community title for ordinary Australians. I believe that we need to start the struggle for land rights all over again – we began in the 1970s but we lost our way. We need a a proper Land Rights movement in the interests of blackfellas and whitefellas.

    I do not think this will happen until whitefellas change their view of what civilisation is. Dale, you described that you and your family feel like ‘outcasts in your own place’. Whitefellas will not give blackfellas the right to economic development over country because they still believe that you were a nomadic people without the ability to manage country. How wrong this is! If any proof is needed just look at the way you have survived in this ancient country for such a long, long time.

    As far as I can see, if there were any justice in our society people like yourself would be the mayor of Minjerriba – people with understanding and knowledge of country. Instead we have ignorant managers of Sibelco Pty Ltd dictating how country is to be used and a weak submissive government extending mining leases (eg Enterprise lease) over the land without any recourse to you the original first nation people who looked after country for thousands of years.

    I have written a poem about what I have seen on Minjerriba called ‘Fire on the Sand’ – it is @

    in solidarity,
    Ian Curr
    July 2011

  2. The Department of Environment and Resource Management is holding information sessions for island residents and stakeholders regarding future land use directions on NSI following the native title determinations.

    The first sessions will be held on Wednesday 27 July 2011.

    Session 1 3:45pm – 4:45pm
    Session 2 5:15pm – 6:15pm

    The information sessions are open to anyone who would like to know more about:
    • the native title determinations on exclusive use and non-exclusive use areas
    • future land use directions and planning needs on NSI

    Please register your interest to attend by:
    • telephone 1800 194 064
    • email
    • or by visiting the NSI information centre at 7 Stradbroke Place, Dunwich.

    Spaces are limited so an RSVP is essential, however, if these sessions reach capacity, DERM will be pleased to hold further sessions in the coming weeks.

    Kind regards,

    Liz Young
    North Stradbroke Island Strategy
    Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
    Department of Environment and Resource Management

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