Native Title hearings begin in Cairns

Native title advocates are hopeful two long-standing claims will finally be wrapped up in Cairns this week.

Two native title claims being finalised in Cairns this week have been more than 10 years in the making.

But for Johnson Chippendale, the road to ownership has stretched a lot further.

"It took me 30 years to get to Shelburne Bay," he told AAP, referring to the Cape York Peninsula inlet in question.

When he returned all those years ago, the now chair of the Wuthathi Aboriginal Corporation said the emotion was almost inexpressible.

"The feeling that's come over me - I can somehow see my grandparents wandering in the woodland and out in front of the beach," he said.

"It's a feeling that you're not alone, that you're being watched by ancestors."

It's also a feeling he should be able to experience again soon, after two native title determinations are handed down at hearings in Cairns on Tuesday and Wednesday.

They're largely considered a formality, so an agreement between applicants and other parties can be finalised granting native title to the descendants of the Aboriginal clans.

At Tuesday's hearing, land previously kept as the Bromley and Boynton pastoral stations on the Cape York Peninsula will be assigned to descendants of the Wuthathi, Kuuku Ya'u and Northern Kaanju people.

A determination about an 1181 square km area in and around Shelburne Bay for the Wuthathi people will follow on Wednesday.

Mr Chippendale said conservation - in particular maintaining the pristine sand dunes of Shelburne Bay - will be a major focus for the traditional owners when they return to the land in late May or early June.

"Our ancestors looked after this country for thousands of years," he said.

"Now it's our opportunity to look after it."

2 min read
Published 28 April 2015 at 11:08am
Source: AAP