Aboriginal dancers perform on Fraser Island ahead of the Federal Court sitting.
Aboriginal dancers perform on Fraser Island ahead of the Federal Court sitting. Jocelyn Watts

Butchulla granted native title rights on Fraser Island

UPDATE: The Butchulla people have been granted native title rights over part of Fraser Island in a historic Federal Court sitting on the island.

A statement from Queensland South Native Title Services said the determination recognised the ongoing traditional laws and customs of the Butchulla people, while also specifying native title rights and interests over about 1640sq km of sandy dunes, age-old sub-tropical rainforests and pristine lakes.

Some of their rights and interests included maintaining places of importance and areas of significance, teaching on the area and conducting and participating in rituals and ceremonies, the statement said.

Justice Berna Collier from The Federal Court of Australia travelled to Fraser Island and held an on-country sitting of the court on Friday morning.

Queensland South Native Title Services chief executive officer Kevin Smith said the formal court recognition and related Indigenous Land Use Agreement would strengthen the Butchulla people's ability to enjoy and protect their rights and interests over their traditional lands and waters.

He said it would also strengthen the prospect of economic opportunities for current and future generations of Butchulla people through eco-tourism and related business development.

"This native title determination reinforces the Butchulla people protecting K'Gari as their island paradise for current and future generations," Mr Smith said.

"This momentous occasion closes the chapter on the long, frustrating struggle for legal recognition and opens another that involves the management and leverage of recognised legal rights - a chapter that will be written by the Butchulla people themselves, a task that they will embrace with the same vigour, creativity and passion they have become legendary for.

"This is an opportunity to honour the courage and resilience of Butchulla elders past and present, to have their rights and interests to their traditional country recognised by the Australian legal system."

EARLIER: More than 400 Butchulla people are expected to attend a Federal Court sitting on Fraser Island about their native title claim on Friday morning.

A determination on the native title claim, over about 1640sq m of Fraser Island, will be made.


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