Ross on behalf of the Cape York United #1 Claim Group v State of Queensland (No 7) (Southern Kaantju determination) [2022] FCA 771

Binomial Name: Federal Court of Australia
Date: 5 July 2022
Sub Category:Consent Determination (Native Title Act)

Southern Kaantju, central region of Cape York peninsula

State/Country:Queensland, Australia

The determination area comprises all of the land and waters described by lots on plan, or relevant parts thereof, and any rivers, streams, creeks or lakes described in Schedule 4. This includes both exclusive areas in Part 1, and non-exclusive areas in Part 2. For a detailed description of the lots, see Schedules 4; and for a map, see Schedule 6. Schedules 3 and 5 outline the external boundary and areas not included in the determination area respectively.

The area is within the jurisdiction of the Cook Shire Council.

Legal Status:

Registered on the National Native Title Register on 5 July 2022

Legal Reference: Federal Court File No.: QUD673/2014; National Native Title Tribunal File No.: QCD2022/006
Subject Matter:Native Title
Summary Information:

Ross on behalf of the Cape York United #1 Claim Group v State of Queensland (No 7) (Southern Kaantju determination) [2022] FCA 771

Between: Michael Ross, Silva Blanco, James Creek, Jonathan Korkaktain, Reginald Williams, Wayne Butcher, Clarry Flinders, Philip Port, HS (deceased) on behalf of the Cape York United #1 Claim Group (Applicant) and State of Queensland and The Commonwealth of Australia, Cook Shire Council and Telstra Corporation Limited (Respondents)

Judge: Mortimer J


The Federal Court of Australia made this native title determination by consent of the parties under s 87A of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (the NTA).

Native title exists in the entire determination area

It consists of exclusive and non-exclusive native title rights and interests.

Areas excluded from the determination area on the basis of extinguishment, are described in Schedule 5.

These rights and interests are exercisable in accordance with traditional laws and customs of the native title holders and are subject to the laws of the State and Commonwealth.

Native title holders

Native title is held by the members of the Southern Kaantju People.

For a detailed description of the group see Schedule 1 of the court determination via the above URL link to the Extract from the National Native Title Register.

Exclusive native title exists over part of the determination area

Other than in relation to water, the native title holders have the right to possession, occupation, use, and enjoyment of the southern part of the determination area to the exclusion of all others. The area is described in Part 1 of Schedule 4, and indicated in dark blue on the map in Schedule 6.

In relation to water, the Southern Kaantju People have the non-exclusive right to take the water of the area for personal, domestic, and non-commercial communal purposes. 

Non-exclusive native title exists in part of the determination area

These rights and interests exist over the areas described in Part 2 of Schedule 4. These non-exclusive rights include:

  • accessing, being present on, moving about on and travelling over the area;
  • living and camping on the area and for the purposes to erect shelter and other structures;
  • hunting, fishing and gathering on the land and waters of the area;
  • being buried and to bury Native Title Holders within the area;
  • teaching on the area the physical and spiritual attributes of the area and the traditional laws and customs of the Southern Kaantju People to other Southern Kaantju People or persons otherwise entitled to access the area;
  • lighting fires on the area for cultural, spiritual or domestic purposes including cooking, but not for the purpose for hunting or clearing vegetation

For more detail on these non-exclusive rights, please refer to the Extract attached.

Other (non-native title) rights and interests in the determination area include the rights and interests of:

  • parties under the Kulla (McIlwraith Range & Mount Croll) Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), the PNG Gas Pipeline ILUA - Cape York Region, the Peninsula Developmental Road ILUA, the Oyala Thumotang National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) and adjacent Aboriginal Land ILUA, and the Toolka Land Trust ILUA;
  • Neville James Shephard under the Land Act 1962 (Qld) as holder of term lease for pastoral purposes;
  • Telstra Corporation Limited, Amplitel Pty Ltd as trustee of the Towers Business Operating Trust;
  • Ergon Energy Corporation Limited;
  • Cook Shire Council; and
  • the State of Queensland.

See Schedule 2 for further information about the non-native title rights and interests.

In the case of conflict, the exercise of the non-native title rights and interests will prevail over the native title rights and interests

Prescribed body corporate

The Southern Kaantju Aboriginal Corporation is the prescribed body corporate. It performs the functions required under the NTA and holds the determined native title in trust for the Southern Kaantju group.

Full text of the determination is available via the URL link above.

Detailed Information:


The Southern Kaantju Application was filed on 5 July 2022, the same day as a determination recognising the native title of the Northern Kaanju People, and on the day before determinations recognising the native title of the Lama Lama People and the Ayapathu People [1]. Together, these determinations resolve four of nine parts of the Cape York United #1 Claim, within a geographic region that has come to be known as the 'Kwok Report Area' [3]. Given that there are multiple distinct Trdaitionla Owner groups within the Cape York area, the Court addressed each determination of the Cape York United #1 Claim separately [3].

Through providing connection and occupation material, the members of the Southern Kaantju Group negotiated with the State of Queensland to come to an agreement regarding their native title rights and interests in the determination area. The parties were able to file the signed agreement with the Court, pursuant to s 87A of the NTA(Cth). This determination, along with other determinations made in the days preceding, recognised native title over more than a million hectares of land in Cape York and was celebrated by traditional owners (Cluff). While the Northern Kaanju people have been recognised by the Federal Court as having ownership over around half a million hectares, Southern Kaantju claimants now have native title over more than 380,000 hectares (Cluff).

Details of Judgment

After detailed deliberation and consultation with lawyers and anthropologists, both boundary description and native group composition were settled between the parties [19-20]. Through evidence informed by historical, anthropological and archival record, as well as testimonies and a range of data, the State accepted that such a credible basis for connection and tenure exists, and Mortimer J accepted that the parties' submissions met the requirements of s 223 of the NTA [29-30]. Justice Mortimer was satisfied that an order under s 87A of the NTA was appropriate [50]. With the State following a detailed step by step process involving considerable human and financial resources, Mortimer J was confident that the State has reached a carefully considered view [53]. Accordingly, Justice Mortiner determined that members of the Southern Kaantju group have native title interests in parts of the determination area [59].


Native title exists in the entire determination area

Related Entries

  • KULLA (McIlwraith Range & Mt Croll) Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)
  • PNG Gas Pipeline Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)
  • Peninsula Development Road Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)
  • Oyala Thumotang National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) and adjacent Aboriginal Land Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA)
  • Toolka Land Trust Indigenous Land Use Agreement ('ILUA')
  • Organisation
  • National Native Title Tribunal
  • State of Queensland - Respondent
  • Cook Shire Council - Respondent
  • Telstra Corporation Limited - Respondent
  • Southern Kaantju Aboriginal Corporation
  • Aurukun Shire Council - Respondent
  • Carpentaria Shire Council - Respondent
  • Douglas Shire Council - Respondent
  • Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council - Respondent
  • Napranum Aboriginal Shire Council - Respondent
  • Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council - Respondent
  • Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council - Respondent
  • Ergon Energy Corporation Limited - Respondent
  • Far North Queensland Ports Corporation Limited - Respondent
  • Alcan South Pacific Pty Ltd - Respondent
  • Brandt Metals Pty Ltd - Respondent
  • RTA Weipa Pty Ltd - Respondent
  • Australian Wildlife Conservancy - Respondent
  • Silverback Properties Pty Ltd - Respondent
  • The Tony and Lisette Lewis Settlement Pty Ltd - Respondent
  • Bowyer Archer River Quarries Pty Ltd - Respondent
  • Amplitel Pty Ltd - Respondent
  • Legislation
  • Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)
  • Native Title Amendment Act 1998 (Cth)
  • Native Title (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Regulations 1999 (Cth)
  • People
  • Michael Ross & others on behalf of the Cape York United #1 Claim Group - Native Title Applicant
  • Southern Kaantju People - Native Title Claimant

  • References

    News Item
    Renee Cluff (5/07/2022) More than a million hectares of land handed back to traditional owners on Cape York


    National Native Title Register Extract for QCD2022/006 as at 05/07/2022 (Southern Kaantju determination) - ( PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF | PDF)


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