THE Cape York Land Council has assured traditional land owners behind the largest native title claim in Australian history that their rights won’t be locked out.
A number of people have spoken against how the claim is being handled at a recent Federal Court of Australia case management hearing in Cairns.
Cape York Land Council chairman Richie Ah Mat said there was a misconception that this claim would block traditional owners from making decisions about their land.
The claim, lodged in December 2014 by the CYLC on behalf of traditional owners, is for 14.6 million hectares across the Cape not already under native title — an area larger than England.
At the hearing Olkola traditional owner and named claim applicant Michael Ross said the claim had split his countrymen.
“The only reason is it splitting the people and the countrymen is because people are saying the claim is going to take away their rights,” Mr Ah Mat said.
“It’s not going to take away their rights.
“Decisions on country are made by traditional owners who have connection to that country.”
Nine people have been named on the claim, leaving some feeling like they aren’t represented.
But Mr Ah Mat said this was just administrative because there couldn’t be a title claim with hundreds of named applicants.
“Those applicants were chosen and endorsed by everyone,” he said.
“Those same applicants can’t speak for different areas on the Cape that they’re not connected to.”
Mr Ah Mat expressed disappointment that those complaining about the claim management were the same who endorsed it initially.
“The Land Council take instructions from the traditional owners,” he said.
“We hold meetings and at the end of the day they tell us what they want.”
Regarding concerns that there would be one prescribed body corporate linked to the one claim, Mr Ah Mat said that State Government was pushing for that outcome and the CYLC didn’t take a position.
“At the end of the day the decision will be made by all the groups on which structure serves everybody,” he said.
“I want to stress, if you have an issue or concern ring the CYLC.
“It’s taken 22 years to get back 45 per cent of the Cape under native title determination, that’s how long it takes. There’s a lot of effort, time, resources spent.”