One Claim – FAQ

Below are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the One Claim process.

When will One Claim be determined by the Federal Court?

Timing is solely a matter for the Federal Court, but our current expectation is towards the end of 2019 or sometime in 2020, but the bottom line is that One Claim will take around 5 years rather than 20 by any other method.

Why is the One Claim process taking so long?

One Claim was lodged in the Federal Court on 11 December 2014 and registered with the Native Title Tribunal on 6 February 2015. The claim is called “Cape York United Number 1 Claim” and it has the Federal Court Number QUD673/2014. It took more than 25 years after Mabo for the initial 45% of Cape York to be determined, so by comparison around 4 years so far is a relatively short period of time.

By the end of 2014 many Cape York traditional owners clearly told the CYLC that they didn’t want to wait another 25years for the remaining areas of Cape York to be declared native title, and so the One Claim process began.

One Claim is a huge regional claim and there is an enormous amount of material that the Court and respondents including the federal and state governments and other interested parties have to go through. We (the CYLC) have been very thorough in our approach to potentially gain a successful outcome, and the Court and its processes are quite rightly just as thorough.

We have an honest belief that we are closer to the end than the beginning.

Why is One Claim still the right claim?

The undeniable advantage of One Claim is the same as it has always been. The reduced time and cost to have native title recognised over the balance of the Cape is the biggest reason why it is the “right” claim. Everyone agrees that no one wants to wait another 25 years to have their Native Title claim determined, as was the reality for many of the initial claims following Mabo.

What could delay the process any further?

The Court determines all matters regarding timing. If the Court decides it needs more time to consider the application, or to ensure the process remains robust, then it may do so. Applicants and Respondents can also apply to the Court to raise relevant issues.

Specifically, the position of the Queensland Government will potentially and critically effect the timeline, as will disputes argued in court, the matter going to trial – which is not a preferred option for the CYLC, disunity, and the position of respondent parties.

What happens if One Claim is not successful?

Given the merits of One Claim, we have no reason whatsoever to believe this is a likely outcome, however should it be the case then the traditional owners will make those decisions, not the CYLC or anyone else.

What will happen to the Cape York Land Council assuming One Claim is successful?

The people of Cape York will determine the future of the Cape York Land Council. Our total focus now is on gaining a favourable outcome in the Federal Court, and we are doing everything we can to help make that happen.The current consideration is to transition the Cape York Land Council from a Native Title representative body to a restructured first nations advisory service – while still having a capability to support and process future claims (land and sea) beyond One Claim, but the people of Cape York will determine that or any other outcome, not the CYLC or anyone else. It’s anticipated that it will be another 5-7 years before native Title will be determined over land and sea in Cape York. Even at the end of that period there will still be a role supporting existing and new PBCs, and possibly delivering other parts of the land reform agenda being developed as Pama Futures.

In terms of One Claim, what will the CYLC be doing between now and then?

In a procedural sense, our priorities are to continue to work hard behind the scenes to comply with the timetable set down by the Federal Court. We are already responding to the State Government regarding issues concerning connection, as well as finalising tenure negotiations.

More broadly, we will be continuing our program of keeping everyone informed about what’s going on, listening to communities, and answering every question being raised in regards to One Claim.

Given a successful One Claim outcome, who speaks for land, and specifically who will not be able to speak for land?

The key principle of One Claim also remains as it has always been; that traditional owners, for each part of the claim area, will continue to speak for and make decisions about, their traditional lands and waters according to their traditional laws and customs.

It is the Traditional Owners (or Native Title holders) for each area who continue to speak for country. Not the Cape York Land Council, not the Cape York Partnership, not the Applicants or any other person or people except the Traditional Owners or native title holders, and only after properly advertised meetings.

What will happen if there’s a dispute over who speaks for land?

If there is a dispute as to who speaks for country, the PBC is required to help settle that dispute. The PBC may engage the CYLC which can offer a mediation process to help traditional owners reach agreement on the disputed matter or any other issues arising in the conduct of One Claim. CYLC’s role is only to act as a facilitator, and never as an umpire or decider.

What does having Native Title actually mean? As a traditional owner, does it mean we will actually have a title deed?

Native Title does not mean that people have a title deed.  What it means is that Native Title Holders (NTH) have their traditional rights to country recognised by the common law of Australia and to have a say in proposals that happen on their land.

But don’t Traditional Owners have full rights already?

After native title is recognised in the Courts – by consent or by trial – like all determinations we will have a corporate entity that will act as agent for the native title holders.  However, ours will be unique in more fully supporting the principle of “your country your say” where the board is prevented from making decisions over land and water, that being the province of the local traditional owners or clan groups if you like.

The current proposal is to have a completely independent Board that’s sole responsibility is to ensure that traditional owners of an area are the ones who make decisions for that area and not the Board or other traditional owners from other areas.

How will PBCs operate after One Claim is determined?

Yes. Now that the claim is registered, the Traditional Owners (TOs) have full rights – as they will continue to have once the Court makes a determination.

What’s the CYLCs preferred plan?

One claim followed by One PBC.  The PBC will have an independent board that DOES NOT make Decisions for land.  It follows procedures to make sure that the local traditional owners make all decisions re land and inland waters.

Some PBCs are concerned they will lose control of their decision making. True or false?

False, in fact the opposite is true. One Claim and the suggested One Claim PBC will ensure that local decision making continues and is not controlled by indigenous corporations or anyone else. At this stage, current PBCs will stay exactly as they are.

How does native title help if I want to build a house, or go into business on the land?

If person (A) wants to own their own home or build a tourist camp etc., native tile will not help.  In fact person (A) will also need to get permission from the Traditional Owners for the area.  However, Pama Futures will help in land planning and getting tenure organised, business assistance and so on. Economic Development is one of the three pillars of Pama Futures.

How will that benefit my community? (What’s in it for us?)

It’s always much better to have Traditional Owners speak for their own country. The people of Cape York have been loud and clear that they want a return to traditional ways, especially in terms of making their own decisions.

One PBC would act as a facilitator, and never a decision maker. One PBCs role would be to help traditional owners’ decisions to be enabled in a real world environment.

One PBCs role is to make sure that Traditional Owners’ decisions actually happen – when they relate to Land, Economic Development and Empowerment, which are the three key principles of Pama Futures.

Life will be better for everyone if we empower Traditional Owners.

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