Four native title claims covering almost 1.5-million hectares of Cape York country are being determined this week, and this morning two of those have been settled with more than 800,000 hectares handed back to Traditional Owners.

The Northern Kaanju people have been recognised by the Federal Court as having ownership over around half a million hectares, while Southern Kaantju claimants now have native title over more than 380,000 hectares.

The determinations were handed down at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park this morning as part of the Cape York Land Council’s United Number One Claim, which covers more than half of the Peninsula.

They follow the handing back of another large tract of land last year.


Northern Kaanju Traditional Owner Joanne Nelson paid tribute to Elders who paved the way.

She said her father is among those no longer alive to see the results of their hard work.

“His legacy was family, fire and Country,” she said.

“It’s very important that we look after Country, look after the family and look after fire – burning the right way at the right time.”

Tomorrow, the Ayapathu people will receive exclusive native title over more than 130,000 hectares and the Lama Lama people’s determination will cover around 327,000 hectares, 84 per cent of which will be recognised as exclusive native title.

Lama Lama Traditional Owner Karen Liddy is planning to repatriate the remains of her grandfather Harry, who was forcibly resettled to Injinoo and tried many times to return to Country.

She said he died broken-hearted after being forced back many times by authorities.


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

The claims were first filed almost eight years ago.


Main points

  • Almost 1.5 million hectares of land is being handed back to Northern Kaanju, Southern Kaantju, Ayapathu and Lama Lama Traditional Owners
  • The Federal Court determinations are part of the Cape York United Number One Claim
  • It was first lodged back in 2014
Our celebrations will be happiness, joy and tears.
LAMA LAMA Native Title Holder