Aboriginal elder held on assault charges

CLASH over tribal boundaries that allegedly ended with Murrandoo Yanner ramming a commonwealth four-wheel drive has landed the Aboriginal firebrand in the Mount Isa watchhouse.
Mr Yanner has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm and assault occasioning bodily harm whilst in company.
The 37-year-old is expected to apply tomorrow for bail in Mt Isa Magistrates Court.
The charges stem from a meeting early last week at Burketown of the Carpentaria Land Council to settle a native title dispute between Mr Yanner's Gangalidda clan and the Lardil, Kaladilt and Yangkaal people.
It is understood that Mr Yanner was challenged by other members, in particular a group of his own Gangalidda people who had driven from Booraloola across the Northern Territory border.
An attendant of the meeting said Mr Yanner provoked an argument with a 19-year-old male from nearby Doomadgee community and the teenager left the meeting, only to return some hours later with other
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young male members of his family.
The Australian was told members of the extended Yanner family were later involved in fights with the ``Doomadgee mob'' after both groups spent some time at the Burketown hotel.
It was alleged that the following day Mr Yanner, driving a Carpentaria Land Council four-wheel drive, rammed a vehicle containing members of the Doomadgee family, including women and children, who were driving a federal government-owned vehicle provided for the Doomadgee Community Development Employment Project.
Nobody was injured in the collision, and last Friday Mr Yanner attended the Mount Isa police station where he was charged and remanded in custody.
The Australian was told yesterday the other clan groups were unhappy with Mr Yanner's attitude to sorting out land ownership, and that that was the genesis of the dispute.
``At the meeting, Murrandoo just wanted to point out on a local map where he considered the boundaries of everybody's land was, but the way to do these things is to visit the land, walk it, and be sure,'' a land council member said.
``If agreement cannot be reached we get a couple of the old people in and ask them to tell the meeting where the boundaries were.
``It is all about money in the end. There are royalties available to the traditional owners because we are talking about mining leases and mining royalties, so it all has to be done properly -- not just some notional agreement made by pointing at a map.''
Mr Yanner is no stranger to the courtroom, achieving notoriety in 1999 when he won a High Court battle securing Aborigines' rights to hunt traditional fauna, particularly crocodiles.
In 1996 he led protests and sit-ins that held up the establishment of the giant Century zinc mine near Doomadgee until agreement was reached on compensation for the traditional owners, and arrangements included mandatory training and employment at the mine of local indigenous people.
In December 2004, he was widely condemned for calling on Aboriginal people to kill police as payback for the death of Aboriginal man Mulrunji Doomadgee in a police cell on Palm Island in November 2004.