On 28 March 2023, at Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool, a large crowd of Eastern Maar community witnessed and celebrated a ceremonial hearing of the Federal Court to recognise their native title rights.
The steady rain did not dampen the celebratory mood. The day commenced with a smoking ceremony and cultural dances. The hearing itself was brief. Eastern Maar speakers included Uncle Rob Lowe, Marcus Clarke, and the claimants: Aunty Janice Austin, Vicki Couzens, Tommy Clarke, Jidah Clark, and Sheree Lowe.
Vicki Couzens read a formal statement in Keerray Wooroong language. It described the history of Eastern Maar Country and People, including the ‘Time of Change’, when Europeans arrived. It ended with a call to “make restoration, to recognise, to heal”.
The Minister for Treaty and First Peoples, Gabrielle Williams, spoke on behalf of the State. She acknowledged the strength and courage of Eastern Maar Elders. She recognised the long history of dispossession, violence and pain for Eastern Maar People.
The event was well organised by Eastern Maar community. It demonstrated their strength in culture and language. Catering included smoked Kooyang (eel), an Eastern Maar traditional food.
The hearing recognises Eastern Maar’s ongoing connection and relationship with their Country. The area includes much of the coastline of the Great Ocean Road and part of the Great Otway National Park. The determination area covers most of Eastern Maar’s native title claim area. Some areas remain in mediation before the Federal Court.
The determination recognises Eastern Maar’s right to access, use, and protect public land in accordance with their traditional law and custom. Additionally, it recognises their right to be consulted on the use and development land and natural resources – to ensure the protection and preservation of places and areas with cultural importance.
The Victorian Government continues to work with Traditional Owner groups across the state to recognise their relationship to land and native title rights through Federal Court processes, as well as via the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 and, in future, via Treaty. It will continue to work with Eastern Maar People on further recognition measures, in accordance with the group’s preferences.
Reviewed 11 April 2023