Federal Court determines Cape York native title rights

Senior Lawyer from Crown Law’s Native Title and Resources Team Leilehua Helu appeared on behalf of the State of Queensland in Injinoo on 30 October 2014 in the Northern Cape York People consent determination hearing and in Cairns on 31 October 2014 for the final Kowanyama People consent determination hearing.

On 30 and 31 October 2014, Justice Greenwood of the Federal Court of Australia made a determination of native title recognising exclusive and non-exclusive native title rights for the Northern Cape York Group #1 and the Kowanyama People claims.

The Northern Cape York Group #1 consent determination recognises native title rights and interests over approximately 694,700 square hectares of land and waters in the north of Cape York Peninsula and acknowledges the historical presence of three language groups in the area – the Gudang Yadhaikenu People, the Attambaya People and the Seven Rivers Angkamuthi People.

The determination recognises exclusive native title rights to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of lands to an area of approximately 368,600 hectares. The non-exclusive native title rights recognised include: rights to access; be present on; move about on; hunt, fish and conduct ceremonies on; and travel over the area.

Lei’s trip to the Cape for the determination included an impromptu visit and hike to the northern tip of Queensland’s mainland for some impeccable views of the vast land recognised in the determinations.

The Kowanyama People’s claim was first lodged in the National Native Title Tribunal on 25 March 1997, with three native title determinations previously made on 22 October 2009 (Part A) and 5 December 2012 (Parts B and C); this was the final determination (Part D) to parts of the Errk Oykangand National Park, pastoral lease areas and watercourses.

The Federal Court in this matter also recognised exclusive and non-exclusive native title rights similar to that determined in the Northern Cape York claim.

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Published: 18 December 2014

Author: Lei Helu