Above: Katrina Karlapina Power & Jeffrey Newchurch in the Federal Court following the decision 

Map of determination area follows article, below

On 21 March 2018, the Kaurna people were recognised as native title holders for lands around Adelaide. The decision is the first positive determination of native title over a capital city area since the creation of the Native Title Act in 1993.

The judgement issued by Justice Mortimer confers native title rights in 17 parcels of land from Lower Light to Myponga and comes 18 years after the Kaurna claim was first lodged. 

Courtroom 1 in the Federal Court in Adelaide was packed with Kaurna community members, legal representatives and supporters on the morning Justice Mortimer handed down her decision.

She said that the determination was possible due to the goodwill and hard work of all parties involved, and evidence presented to the court gave a “credible and rational basis” from which to settle the claim.

“This has been a long time in the making” Justice Mortimer said. “To see any native title claim determination pass takes fortitude, determination and courage”

After handing down her decision, Justice Mortimer handed the determination document to Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis O’Brien.

Named applicant in the Kaurna case Garth Agius said that the emotion of the day was overwhelming.

“I can’t describe it in words” he said

“I mean it’s 18 years, waiting for a decision to say that the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains, the First Peoples, were not subject to Terra Nullius

“Now finally is our day because now everybody in the nation has recognised us in the High Court that we were here first” he said.

Kaurna representative Suzanne Russell said that it was signifcant day for the Kaurna people.

“To have this recognition, that we are the native title holders in this country here is just so important to us” she said.

“Always has been, always will be Kaurna land, we’ve always known that,”

“But now we have that legal recognition to go with it” she said.

She addressed the court during the proceedings and spoke of the emotion after such a long claim, particularly when many family members have passed away during the process.

“Many people started this fight for us and we remember them today” she said.

She placed photos of ancestors who have passed away on the Court bench during her speech. She also presented the Court and Kaurna legal representative Tim Campbell with an urn containing materials gathered from across Kaurna land.

Katrina Karlapina Power also addressed the court and said to reporters gathered outside the court after the judgment that she was proud of Kaurna people and South Australia.

“An absolutely proud moment, not just for Kaurna but for Australia, this is huge,

“A lot of Kaurna people haven’t been here to witness this, but we’ve carried the baton and it’s been worth it.

“Now that we’re owning up to our history and deciding that we’re going to share this land, we can work magic for all our children.

“South Australia has really positioned itself on the national map in terms of history and significance — it’s a celebration for us all” she said.

The CEO of SA Native Title Services Keith Thomas has congratulated the Kaurna people for their determination of native title.

“This judgment confirms the status of the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of lands around what is now Adelaide” Mr Thomas said.

“It’s a decision that means that the respect and recognition that Kaurna people hold as traditional custodians of this land is now formalised under Federal law,”

“I acknowledge the efforts of many Kaurna people over the years to gain this recognition” he said.

According to Mr Thomas, the Kaurna determination is the thirty first native title agreement to be finalised in South Australia and confirms the importance of a collaborative approach in native title negotiations.

“In South Australia we are well advanced in terms of the portion of land with native title determined”

“This is largely due to the cooperative approach that the many stakeholders involved in a native title agreement take in our state”

“This recognition for Kaurna people has come about because the State, local councils, landholders and Aboriginal nations are prepared to negotiate to come to a resolution”

Present in the court for the determination was South Australia’s new Attorney General Vickie Chapman who congratulated the Kaurna people and committed the government to the work necessary to finalise the necessary associated Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA).

Above:  Map of external boundary of determination area from final determination

You can see the full Consent Determination judgment, including maps, on the Federal Court’s website hereFor full details of the Kaurna claim process, Agius v State of South Australia – search for case SAD6001/2000 via a Federal Law search

You can see native title maps of South Australia (and all of Australia) via Native Title Vision – a service of the National Native Title Tribunal

By Lucy Kingston


SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.