Historic Wik claim finalised

The Federal Court finalised the long-running Wik native title claim at a special sitting in Aurukun in Far North Queensland on 11 October 2012.

At the special sitting in searing 40 degree heat at the local sports and recreation centre, Justice Greenwood made the determination that the Wik and Wik Way People have native title rights to the last remaining areas of their claim.

The determination was the fifth and final determination of native title in respect of the Wik and Wik Way People’s native title claim. The finalisation of the Wik claim is of particular significance as it was the first native title claim to be made following the High Court’s initial native title determination in Mabo No.2.

The determination, covering 4500 square kilometres of land and waters in the western part of the Cape York Peninsula near Weipa, marks the culmination of almost 20 years of work by the Wik People, the State of Queensland and the other parties.

The original Wik claim was filed in the Federal Court on 30 June 1993 prior to the commencement of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). The claim was later adjourned and reconstituted under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), making it one of the first claims for native title to be processed under the new regime.

In the years that followed, the Wik claim continued to break new ground in the field of native title with the decision of the High Court in Wik v Queensland (1996) 187 CLR 1, which set out key principles regarding the extinguishment of native title. There have since been five determinations of native title in favour of the Wik People, four of which were by consent.

The involvement of Crown Law in the Wik claim dates back almost 20 years, with our lawyers acting for the State in the High Court and in the negotiation of each of the subsequent consent determinations.

Senior Lawyer Georgia Morrison from our Native Title Claims and Agreements Team has been working on the Wik claim since 2008, drafting the terms of the consent determinations and negotiating with the native title holders and pastoralists.

Georgia travelled to Aurukun to represent the State at the final determination hearing.

“I was honoured to appear on behalf of the State at the historic final determination of the Wik claim in Aurukun,” she said.

“It’s great to see many years of negotiations between the claimants, pastoralists and the State Government reach a positive conclusion with the native title rights of the Wik People being recognised in the last remaining areas of their claim.”

The information in this publication is provided for general purposes only. It is not to be relied on as a substitute for legal advice. Crown Law and the Department of Justice and Attorney-General accept no liability for losses caused by reliance on the material in this publication. Formal legal advice should be obtained for particular matters.

Published: 6 November 2012

Author: Georgia Morrison