The land claimed by the two groups included land for which the Queensland Government had issued two pastoral leases - the Mitchelton Pastoral Holding Lease, granted pursuant to the Land Act 1910 (Qld), and the Holroyd River Pastoral Lease, granted pursuant to the Land Act 1962 (Qld).
The Wik and Thayorre Peoples argued that their native title rights and interests were not extinguished by the grant of leases, but rather coexisted with the interests of the lessees.
On 23 December 1996, the High Court handed down its decision in Wik Peoples v State of Queensland and Others. The decision confirmed that native title rights and interests may exist over land which is or has been subject to a pastoral lease, and possibly some other forms of leasehold tenure.
The Court held that existing pastoral leases issued prior to 1 January 1994 and the rights granted under them are valid. It also held that the rights of the pastoralist prevail over native title rights and interests to the extent of any inconsistency.
Considered strictly on its facts, the Wik case is confined to a decision on two specific pastoral leases granted under the Land Act 1910 (Qld) and the Land Act 1962 (Qld). The High Court only looked at the merits of the lease instruments and the legislation under which they were issued, holding that these pastoral leases did not automatically extinguish any surviving native title rights and interests simply by their grant because they did not grant exclusive possession.