Unley Council last night reverted back to the original acknowledgement of the Kaurna people as custodians of our land, reversing a decision back in 2010 to recognise aboriginal people generally, rather than the one tribe. The decision coincides with National Reconciliation week.


The City of Unley has acknowledged the cultural heritage of Indigenous culture in the local region for many years.

The Unley council area is part of a wider area known in Kaurna culture as “The Black Forest” and that the Kaurna people roamed, sheltered and hunted among the red gums and reeds of the local region. There is also evidence of Kaurna specific cultural practice in the area.

It is acknowledged that the area was also visited by Ramindjeri, Ngarrindjeri and Moorundie people.

On 25 October 2000, an application for determination of native title in South Australia was lodged with the National Native Title Tribunal on behalf of the Kaurna Peoples. The City of Unley became a party to the Kaurna Peoples Native Title Claim on 31 October 2001.

In April 2005 Council resolved to support the development of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) as the preferred approach to managing native title rights in the Kaurna applications to the Federal Court. Council is now part of 25 Councils who are signatories to the Kaurna ILUA, first established in 2007.

There was a separate Ramindjeri Claim lodged with the National Native Title Tribunal on 22 October 2010 (and amended on 22 January 2011). This claim stretched from south of the Torrens River through the Fleurieu Peninsula and over to Kangaroo Island and countered areas claimed by Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri peoples.

This prompted Council to alter its acknowledgement in favour of non discrimination towards either claimant by removing the tribal reference to Kaurna from our acknowledgement in favour of the use of Aboriginal.

The Ramindjeri claim was struck out by the Federal Court on 5 September 2014.

Given this we have taken the opportunity to re-recognise the Kaurna people as the tribal custodian of the Unley Local Government area passing a motion to that effect last night. In future we will acknowledge this land that we meet on today is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people.


After about 2 hours of debate the Council agreed to enter into an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Kaurna Peoples native title claimants, and 27 other councils.

An ILUA is an agreement to facilitate the requirements of the Native Title Act 1993 about the use and management of land and waters made between people who hold, or may hold, native title in the area, and other people, organisation or governments.

The Kaurna ILUA has been developed by a Local Government Association coordinated leadership group, representing metropolitan councils and some adjoining country councils which cover the geographical area of the Kaurna peoples, and representatives of the Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation (KYAC) and the Kaurna Nation Cultural Heritage Association Incorporated (Heritage Association); over I believe a 6 year period.

This is a complex document designed to create a respectful protocol and procedures for addressing native title claims as and when they arrive. It is also designed as I understand  it to bring certainty to the cost of processing any claim.

Claims already processed under the Native Title Act have been (for want of a better word) clumsily processed with costs not controlled. The potential is, as I see it and from what I have heard, that any one claim if there is no procedure to place parameters on the process and cost could cost a public utility such as a council beyond their means.

In what I felt was a no brainer, debate last  night was strong land questions about legalities were prominent.

A  number of councilors were under the impression that this agreement will open up the way for claims rather than being (as I indicted earlier) a facilitator for claims that can and will be made under the Act as it stands. Claims can be and have been made under the Act. The land use agreement does not change this.

Equally there were many that saw flaws in the legalese used in the document. Of course we would know more than those (including lawyers) who have been working on it for 6 years. It is to be expected that we would ask a number of questions, but for a time there, there appeared to be a resolve to rewrite the document on the night, having only been aware of its contents for less than a week.

We even debated that this would facilitate claims on private properties and that we should therefore take it out to the public for consultation before making a decision. This in-spite of being advised that the Native Titles Act extinguishes native title where the property has already been developed. Of course this also ignored the fact that it is the Native Title act that would facilitate such a claim, not the Land Use Agreement.

It was a confusing night to say the least, and we went off on tangents often. I have to say I am still trying to get a grip on what happened.

In the end I believe the right decision (vote 6 to 5) was made, a decision to be part of a process that will make addressing claims easier and more respectful and one that will restrain the cost of processing the claim.