This land is our land – federal court declares native title

CHEERS and tears of jubilation filled a temporary federal court room on Fraser Island yesterday (October 24, 2014) as Justice Berna Collier officially recognised the Butchulla people as the island’s native title holders.

It was an emotional day for the 450 Butchulla people who gathered to witness the historic occasion.

Butchulla elder Fiona Foley said the decision had been 18 years in the making.

Butchulla Native Title

Justice Berna Collier from the Federal Court of Australia receives a “thank you” kiss from Butchella elder Malcolm Burns.

“We’re very excited to finally get this recognition and see so many Butchulla people here at once,” Aunty Fiona said.

“I never thought this day would happen in my lifetime.”

Yesterday’s Native Title Consent Determination recognised the ongoing traditional laws and customs of the Butchulla people, while also specifying  native title rights and interests over about 1640 square kilometers of national park.

Excluded zones include Kingfisher Bay and Eurong resorts, Orchid Beach and Happy Valley.

Some of the Butchulla people’s rights and interests included maintaining areas of cultural significance, teaching and participating in rituals and ceremonies.

Queensland South Native Title Services CEO Kevin Smith said this momentous occasion closed the chapter on a long struggle for legal recognition and opened another that involved the management and leverage of recognised legal rights.

“Today is a day of celebration but the work starts tomorrow with what the Butchulla people will do with their native title,” Mr Smith said.

“It could be as simple as coming for song and dance or it could be working on eco-tourism.”

Mr Smith said a decision on the island’s name would be made some time in the future.

“Locals might still know it as Fraser Island but affectionately the traditional name K’Gari needs to catch on,” Mr Smith said.

Son says Aunty Olga here in spirit

AUNTY Olga Miller’s spirit was sure to be smiling over yesterday’s proceedings, according to her proud son Glen Miller.

“I’m a member of the Wondunna clan and we’re in the middle of Wondunna country now,” he said.

“Mum filed the first native title claim on Fraser Island 18 years ago and the Butchulla clan filed a year later.

“We’ve been waiting 18 years for this decision, so it’s a pretty historic day.

“As the judge said, it’s sad that some of those elders are not here today to share this with us but I’m sure they’re with us in spirit.

“Ever since I was a child and could understand English, Mum talked about the island and what it meant.

“Finally Butchulla people are recognised as traditional owners. I know it’s symbolic but symbolism means a lot to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike.

“This decision gives us a foothold on which to go forward.

“Unfortunately the native title claim process is ridiculously lengthy, so to finally get this under such difficult circumstances makes today even more special.”

The late Aunty Olga Miller was a well-known Fraser Coast historian, author and artist. Her work is featured in many of the Fraser Coast’s public places.

Native title agreement rights

The Butchulla People’s Native Title Consent Determination includes non-exclusive rights to:

  • Access, be present on, move about on and travel over the area;
  • Camp, and live temporarily on the area as part of camping, and for that purpose to build temporary shelters;
  • Hunt, fish and gather on the land and waters of the area for personal, domestic and non-commercial communal purposes;
  • Take, use, share and exchange natural resources from the land and waters for personal, domestic and non-commercial communal purposes;
  • Take and use the water for personal, domestic and non-commercial communal purposes;
  • Conduct, and participate in, rituals and ceremonies, including those relating to initiation, birth and death;
  • Be buried on and bury native title holders within the area;
  • Teach the physical, cultural and spiritual attributes of the area;
  • Hold meetings in the area;
  • Light fires for personal and domestic purposes including cooking, but not for the purpose of hunting or clearing vegetation.

Originally published in the Fraser Coast Chronicle, Saturday, October 25, 2014.

Globe-trotting academic to explore Fraser Coast


Associate Professor Elaine Sharplin.

FRASER Coast is a far cry from Peru, South Africa and India but for Associate Professor Elaine Sharplin this region is just as exciting and she’s eager to explore.

University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast’s newest academic is keen to immerse herself in the education scene and go kayaking, hiking, camping and off-road driving in local areas including Fraser Island (pictured).

“I live to travel and taking this position is part of my next travel adventure,” Associate Professor Sharplin (Literacies, Curriculum and Pedagogy) said.

“I’m really looking forward to working with new colleagues and students, exploring opportunities, meeting school principals, staff and students, and immersing myself in Queensland’s education system.

“This position gives me an opportunity to explore Queensland, which is relatively new to me. I’m looking forward to exploring the east coast and hinterland areas as far up as Cape York.”

USQ Vice Chancellor and President Professor Jan Thomas welcomed Associate Professor Sharplin to the University saying she was a valued addition to the team of academic and professional staff.

“Her expertise, particularly in rural and regional education, is highly regarded and we look forward to having her on board to enhance USQ’s range of programs and partnerships with schools, industry, government and the wider community,” Professor Thomas said.

Exploring education internationally

Associate Professor Sharplin was born in Victoria but lived most of her life in Perth.

She has worked in rural and metropolitan schools as Secondary English Teacher, been a Regional School Development Advisor, co-ordinated communications, workplace and women’s programs at TAFE in Port Headland, and conducted research as a consultant before spending the past 15 years at The University of Western Australia as Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) and Secondary Teacher Education Program Co-ordinator.

Her research interests include Rural and Regional Education, English and Literacy Education, Early Career Teacher Development, Pre-service Teacher Education, Curriculum and Pedagogy.

Associate Professor Sharplin has a strong record of supervising higher degree (Masters and Doctoral) students in a broad range of areas.


Visiting Fraser Island’s Maheno shipwreck is on Associate Professor Elaine Sharplin’s travel bucket list.

She also Editor for the Australian and International Journal for Rural Education.

“Because of my interest in rural and remote education, I’ve previously worked with Indigenous communities and am keen to get to know the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the Fraser Coast and beyond.”

Associate Professor Sharplin said she hit the ground running as she arrived in Hervey Bay in late January.

“I arrived on the Monday, settled on a house in Urangan on the Tuesday and started at USQ Fraser Coast on the Wednesday,” she said.

“Before that I had been in India for a month and flew back to Perth the day before coming to Hervey Bay.”

Her travels last year took her to India, Tanzania and South Africa while on long-service leave, and also to a remote village in Peru where she conducted a study of parents and students’ education aspirations.

“In Peru I was billeted with a family, taught English to students and met with parents, staff and parent association members to collect data about the aspirations of the parents and children.

“I also explored what barriers may have been inhibiting the achievement of those aspirations.

“What was fascinating was that many of the issues in relation to Peru’s rural and remote education were very similar to the Australian context.

“There were similar issues around the attraction and retention of teachers and subsequently the quality of teaching, as well as issues of geographic and economic disadvantage.

“The similarities were quite astounding.

“In Tanzania I had an opportunity to visit some schools and look at the experiences of disadvantaged girls’ education.”

Associate Professor Sharplin has also travelled widely across to the globe to places such as Vietnam, Cambodia, South America, North America and Europe.

Her 23-year-old daughter, a primary school teacher, and 19-year-old son are still living in Perth.



International travel on horizon for Jeremei

HAVING a university degree broadens horizons in more ways than one, says University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast Student Ambassador Jeremei Maudsley.

“Expanding my career options within Australia is just the start,” he said. “There are also myriad opportunities for jobs overseas on a work and holiday visa.”

Mr Maudsley, 28, said his lifetime dream was to travel around Europe. Now, with just one semester of study left to complete his Bachelor of Business, making that dream a reality is getting closer by the day.

With a major in resource management and minors in psychology and education, Mr Maudsley has plenty of scope for securing work in a variety of areas that require highly skilled people.

“I chose a psychology minor because it linked with human resource management in business. I also wanted the education minor to give myself as many career pathways as possible.”

The former Maryborough sheet metal worker said finishing his USQ undergraduate degree this year still allowed him time to apply for a UK Tier 5 Visa, which applies to Australian and New Zealand citizens aged between 18 and 30 years.

“I turn 30 in March next year (2016) but I can apply up to my 31st birthday. With that visa I’ll be able to work and travel anywhere in the UK for two years.”

Born in the North Queensland town of Ingham, Mr Maudsley is of Philippian and Australian descent but lived mostly in Maryborough attending Albert State Primary and Maryborough State High schools.

“I did a sheet metal working apprenticeship in Maryborough before enrolling at USQ and moving to Hervey Bay two and a half years ago. I had achieved everything I wanted with the trade and was looking for a new challenge.

“I’m trying to keep my options open because I don’t know what I really want to do yet. If I don’t like something, then I want to be able to move around, so having a university degree with studies in a few different areas gives me the best chance to do that.”

Anyone who wants to study at USQ in 2015 still has time to apply. Applications through QTAC close on February 16; direct entry applications close on February 26. Application details can be found at

 Photo: USQ Fraser Coast Student Ambassador Jeremei Maudsley is looking forward to traveling overseas, buoyed with a university business degree to help him find quality work.