General News

15 July, 2022

Native title granted over Cape lands

ONE of Australia’s largest native title claims reached a significant milestone last week when the Honourable Justice Mortimer granted native title rights for four groups covering almost 1.5 million hectares of Cape York, north of Cairns.

Native title granted over Cape lands
Native title granted over Cape lands

After nearly eight years of fighting for their rights and interests in what is known as the Cape York United Number One Claim (CYU#1 Claim), the Ayapathu, Lama Lama, Northern Kaanju and Southern Kaantju Native Title Groups rejoiced that their ancestral land right were finally being recognised. 

The Determination hearings, held at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns, are the second series of native title Determinations in the CYU#1 Claim.

The total claim area for CYU#1, filed on 11 December 2014, covers almost 55 per cent of Cape York. 

Northern Kaanju Traditional Owner Joanne Nelson paid tribute to Elders who had paved the way for the landmark Determination, many of whom – including family members – were not alive today to see the fruits of their hard work. 

She said her father would be “over the moon to finally sit back and see that his land was actually handed back”. 

Southern Kaantju Traditional Owner David Nicholls Jnr. and his ancestors spent nearly a century trying to find information about their great grandfather Billy, a former Light Horseman of World War I, and member of the stolen generation. 

A spelling error in official records had denied them information about Billy and their lands – until a decade ago when the error was discovered. 

“What it (the Determination) means to us, as the Nicholls family, is that we not only get the land back but we are recognised as part of the Southern Kaantju clan. 

It feels like we are taking our great grandfather back now, we are taking him home,” he said. 

“It’s going to be so special. A lot of tears but also a lot of happiness.” 

For Ayapathu Traditional Owner Billy Pratt, the day paid special tribute to Elders past and present who fought hard for their rights, but also those still with them who would “breathe a sigh of relief” that their land had been returned. 

“My Mum is 82 now, so it’s good that she will get to see it happen,” he said. 

Lama Lama Traditional Owner Karen Liddy and her family hope to be able to repatriate the remains of their fiercely proud grandfather Harry, forcibly resettled from Lama Lama country to Injinoo, who tried many times to return to Country.

“What my grandfather and my family taught us was passed down and we continue to walk that walk for him,” she said. 

CYLC Chair Richie Ah Mat praised the tenacity of all Traditional Owners who have won Country back over the past eight long years since the CYU#1 Claim was lodged. 

“Some Elders have been waiting much longer, fighting for recognition of their traditional rights in earlier native title and land claims,” he said.


Most Popular