“In the old days the white man committed genocide with a gun, now he is killing us with the pen”
Uncle Karno Walker – Summer 2011 – Indian Country Today
Michael Mansell’s work with the Aboriginal Provisional Government in the late 80’s (which Karno was South Australia’s Representative) and the findings in 1991 from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody highlighting the need for Aboriginal Self Determination helped set the stage for what was to come with this court case.
Several years later Uncle Karno’s work (as signatory to United Nations and Federal parliament served documents) with Mark McMurtrie of the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation also heavily informed this court case.
The Original Tribal Sovereign Federation Kangaroo skin that serves as the document for the signatories to this federation was one of the cultural artefacts introduced into evidence during these court cases.
Notice: The Wirritjin Peggera:lin executive committee would like to make clear to our audience that we are a spiritual organisation and not a political one. Our project begins with this website which aims to do three things; honour the life of Ramindjeri Elder, Uncle Karno Walker, promote his vision of Wirritjin Peggera:lin (Blackfella/Whitefella dreaming together) and Mum:mo:wee (Blackfella/Blackfella tribes coming together). All of our future projects will also be spiritually based and aimed at preserving First Nations spirituality and finding a new way forward for the country we all share based on Uncle Karno’s vision.
This page, and others, on this website aim to honour the life and achievements of Uncle Karno in all spheres, including politics, this page is a recognition of his past political achievements and is not an invitation for further political action.
Part 1 of 2 – Ramindjeri Native Title Claim (filed 22nd November 2010)
As early as 2002, Uncle Karno would meet with the Native Title Tribunal every 6 months to defend the Ramindjeri, and Uncle Karno would always stand up in court and have something to say.
After 10 years of hearing Uncle Karno in court, Judge Mansfield suggested to Uncle Karno that perhaps he should put in his own claim in for Native Title so he can better protect his people. Uncle Karno took on board Judge Mansell’s suggestion and submitted a Native Title claim for, and on behalf of, the Ramindjeri people.
Before this process could begin the South Australian Native Title Services supplied a Lawyer to hold and run the vote for which elder will represent the Ramindjeri in Native Title court. Uncle Karno was voted in unopposed by the Ramindjeri people to represent them for their Native Title Claim.
This claim for Ramindjeri Native Title was then put forward. When it went through the registration test, one of the ticks the Ramindjeri actually got was that the Ramindjeri were not a subgroup of anybody. The Ramindjeri were considered to be their own Tribe and not one of the clans of the Ngarrindjeri.
Uncle Karno was the only tribal elder defending and taking the lead in his own Native Title case. The other tribes chose to have white lawyers representing them.
According to Aunty Christine the two main reasons for the Claim were, to be able to speak about their own country, and secondly the rights for the Ramindjeri to be recognised.
Aunty Christine also wishes to make it clear that the Ramindjeri Native Title claim was not struck out, in the interview below she paraphrases Judge Mansfield’s decision ” I am going to have to dismiss the claim on the grounds that I do not have the jurisdiction to make a decision.”
Judge Mansfield then continued to explain in further detail to Uncle Karno why he was dismissing the case. Then Judge Mansfield said to Karno “he wanted Karno to keep going”, he wished Karno well and told him not to stop. Judge Mansfield also added that he believed that Uncle Karno had to take his case to a higher court.
This laid the groundwork for the first ever Native Sovereignty claim in Australian courts.
Legal documents regarding this Native Title Claim can be seen here;
Ramindjeri Native Title Claim Court Documents (filed 22nd November 2010)
Part 2 of 2 – Ramindjeri Sovereignty Claim – Judgement 19th July 2013
He was backed up by Mark McMurtrie and Dr Irene Watson. Mark, who where both there to advise him on points of law when necessary. Judge Mansfield was quite impressed by Karno, since in Mansfields experience, Karno was the only Tribal elder that would actually legally defend his tribe in person.
Mark, due to his legal work with the Original Tribal Sovereign Federation knew tribal law better than most lawyers. Irene Watson, who belongs to the Tanganekald, Portuwutj, Meintangk and Bunganditj tribes, was Karno’s legal expert in state and federal law. Dr Irene Watson is currently the Prov Vice Chancellor of Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy at the University of South Australia, she is also currently a Professor of Law, the Tangenekald are the neighbouring tribe of the Ramindjeri. Dr Irene Watson is also the first Aboriginal lawyer to practise law in South Australia.
Dr Irene Watson also spoke on behalf of Uncle Karno as an expert witness in his case.
Uncle Karno was also the first ever elder in court history to be allowed to bring in Aboriginal weapons into a court room, as evidence for his case. Aunty Christine discusses how and what occurred with these weapons in the interview below.
Legal documents regarding this Native Sovereignty Claim can be seen here;
Ramindjeri Sovereignty Claim Court Documents – Judgement 19th July 2013