WORIMI Aboriginal tribe descendants will lodge a Commonwealth Native Title claim over Newcastle and surrounds as part of a campaign to prove they are the area’s traditional owners.
Although mostly associated with Port Stephens, the Worimi descendants argue that what is now Newcastle fell within their tribe’s ancient hunting and cultural footprint.
They are also disputing the right of the Awabakal Aboriginal group to lay claim to the land.
Tribe descendant Jaye Quinlan (nee Dates) said about nine Worimi descendants had been researching their right to make the claim for several years.
She confirmed the lack of recognition given to the Worimi tribe in the recent excavation of ancient artefacts at the Newcastle West KFC site had been a factor in the decision to pursue legal action.
‘‘They are our ancestors’ tools and we were not consulted at all,’’ Ms Quinlan said.
Newcastle lawyer Mark Ramsland confirmed he intended to lodge the Native Title claim on behalf of the Worimi descendants in the federal court within a fortnight.
‘‘I’ve looked at a lot of material that they have given me about the generations of their people living here and their use of the land,’’ he said.
‘‘It seems to me that they have a decent claim.’’
Most historic records indicate that the Hunter River served as a broad territorial marker between the tribes, with Worimi tribe to the north and Awabakal tribe to the south.
But Ms Quinlan said the group had evidence to prove this was incorrect.
‘‘A lot of people say they are Awabakal people, but that is not right,’’ she said.
‘‘Awabakal is a language, it is not a tribe.
‘‘We are sick of them telling us we don’t exist.’’
Awabakal descendant Kerrie Brauer said the story of the Awabakal footprint in Newcastle and the boundaries of Awabakal country were well documented and recognised.
‘‘We are supportive of traditional people trying to have their rights met through the native title process,’’ Ms Brauer said.
‘‘Should any native title claims be made in or overlapping the traditional boundaries of Awabakal country, we would expect to be consulted as part of that process.
‘‘We believe that our rights to fair and transparent representation of our interests as Awabakal people deserve to be protected, otherwise fair processes have not been demonstrated and this would need to be challenged.’’
Ms Quinlan traces her Worimi ancestry to her great-great grandmother Mary Mahr, who was born in 1847.
‘‘My father used to take us up to the hill overlooking Newcastle and tell us stories about our land,’’ she said.
‘‘It was like an initiation.’’
Ms Quinlan said if the Worimi claim succeeded she believed the tribe would have control over the 5500 artefacts recovered from the KFC site.
‘‘If that happened then we would give them to a museum where everyone could see and appreciate them,’’ she said.