Federal Court recognises new native title claim

By Jackson Graham

Friday October 8, 2021

Foreign investor did not secure Foreign Investment Review Board permission to buy in Australia. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Ancient rights to a large area of land in western Queensland have been formally recognised by the Federal Court.

The court on Wednesday resolved a native title determination from the region’s Koa people for 865,000 hectares of land and waters near Winton. 

Pamela Hegarty, a Koa traditional owner, said the decision helped to give justice to her ancestors.

“This will strengthen Koa people to move forward not only on country but for the very essence of their Koa identity,” Hegarty said. 

“It will diminish myths about Koa people and rectify misconstrued thoughts and opinions once and for all about Koa traditional land ownership of country in its entirety.”

Koa traditional owner Robert Duncan Sr echoed the sentiment, adding the process had been challenging. 

“I am very happy now, but in the beginning it was a struggle,” Duncan Sr said. 

“This is one step towards reclaiming Koa country again.” 

The native title area, near Winton in Queensland 

About 491,850 square kilometres of land in Queensland is subject to native title, and claims exist for another 428,150 square kilometres. 

A Queensland Treaty Advancement Committee has been developing options and independent advice for a treaty between the government and First Nations people. 

It is expected to report on options for a treaty later this year. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships minister Craig Crawford said the federal court decision was one step in the state’s path towards a treaty. 

“In Queensland, we are committed to acknowledging Indigenous Australians as the traditional owners of this land and righting the wrongs of our past,’’ Crawford said.

Resources minister Scott Stewart congratulated the Koa people on their historic determination.

“From [now] onwards the Federal Court formally recognises the Koa people’s ancient rights on country including hunting, fishing, gathering and conducting ceremonies,” he said. 

Stewart said native title was now recognised across nearly 30% of the state.

Last week, the Queensland government gave back ownership of four national parks: the Daintree, Ngalba-bulal (Cedar Bay), Kalkajaka (Black Mountain) and the Hope Islands to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people. 

It has also and government renamed Fraser Island K’gar, returning the traditional owners’ name for it meaning ‘paradise’.


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