3 November 2023

Native title determinations give land back to Traditional Owners

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Group picture of the Kuku Warra peoples dressed in red, black and white shirts with Kuku Warra written on them.

The Kuku Warra peoples were one of the groups to get their native titles recognised in Cairns. Photo: Chisa Hasegawa.

After nine years of work and many more decades of fighting for land and recognition, the Kuku Warra, Possum, Thaypan and Wik and Wik Way people had their native titles determined in Cairns on Thursday (2 November).

The Cape York United #1 Claim was filed on behalf of the Traditional Owners of Cape York in 2014 covering almost 55 per cent of the region, and the four groups were the fifth to have their native title recognised as part of the claim.

Kuku Warra Traditional Owner Des Rumble explained the importance of the day’s event.

“It’s confirmation of our people’s Country in Australian law. We’ve always known this is Aboriginal land and will always be Aboriginal land, but we have to get it put into law and a determination does that,” he said.

“Everything we’ve already known is now being officially confirmed so it means a lot to us.”

Mr Rumble and fellow Kuku Warra Traditional Owner Leann Alberts said the determination is not only important for them, but also for their children and generations to come.

Ms Alberts, who travelled to the determination ceremony from Rockhampton, is one of many Indigenous peoples affected by the stolen generation.

“Me and my family, we’ve never lived on the land and because of my mum being taken away, we’ve lost our culture and our belonging,” she said.

Mr Rumble explained that the determination will help their children to have a sense of being and belonging.

“Culture sits at the heart of who we are as a people and land is a part of that culture. If young people don’t know who they are and where they belong, it’s very hard for them to get on with their lives and make something if it because they’re always wondering,” he said.

He urged Australians not to give into fear through misinformation.

“Native titles can sit quite comfortably alongside other leases. The native title determination will change things for us as a people because we can move forward, but it changes nothing for non-Indigenous people,” he explained.

He said he is looking forward to continuing consulting on issues with everyone involved.

“We are moving forward as peoples and we will do it with non-Indigenous people as well: our friends, our supporters.”

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