Six far north Queensland indigenous groups can now call the lands of their ancestors their traditional country, following a Federal Court ruling.
A 17-year wait is over for six indigenous clan groups who have been fighting for native title in far north Queensland.
The Federal Court, sitting in Weipa, ruled on Friday to give the groups the right to call the land of their ancestors, which stretches nearly 100km along the western side of Queensland’s Cape York, their traditional country.
The Anathangayth, Thanakwithi, Yupungathi, Tjungundji, Taepadhighi and Mbakwithi peoples first made the application for the land in 1997.
The land includes the town of Mapoon and surrounding areas, as well as significant parts of the Comalco and Alcan South Pacific mining leases.
Taepadhighi elder Harriet Flinders said it was a bittersweet moment.
“I feel good for my people, I am happy for this determination,” she said.
“I am sad for my family that have passed, but they have given me the strength to carry on.”
Thanakwithi elder Steven Hall said his clan’s traditions could now live on.
“I feel I can go back to country to teach my grandchildren the ways of my people,” he said.
Yupungathi applicant Linda McLachlan paid tribute to land rights campaigner Eddie Mabo, saying his efforts paved the way for all indigenous people to be recognised as the first Australians.