Date: 
Friday 2 July 2010

Today’s decision by Justice Finn of the Federal Court of Australia to formally recognise the native title rights of Torres Strait Islanders in the Torres Strait Regional Sea Claim is a significant cause for celebration, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said today.

Commissioner Gooda said the decision recognised native title rights in the seas of the Torres Strait under Australian law.

“I congratulate the Traditional Owners of the Torres Strait for today’s positive outcome,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“Today’s result is the end of a long process for the people of the Torres Strait and is testament to their resilience and determination.”

Commissioner Gooda said the decision came 18 years after the historic High Court decision in Mabo which found that native title existed on Murray Island, and almost nine years after the Torres Strait Regional Sea Claim was filed in the Federal Court.

Importantly, Justice Finn recognised the right of Torres Strait Islanders to use marine resources for commercial purposes.

“Commercial fishing rights are essential to Indigenous peoples of Australia,” Mr Gooda said.

“Not only are they traditional rights but they are also integral to the economic development of Indigenous communities.”

Other findings by Justice Finn included that there was a single Torres Strait Islander society to which the native title group belongs.

“Today’s decision is the most recent in a long line of successful determinations of native title in the Torres Strait,” Mr Gooda said.

“The Torres Strait is now operating in a post-determination environment in which native title holders can focus on achieving substantive outcomes through the exercise of their recognised native title rights.”

A final determination is to be made on 30 July 2010.

Media contact: Louise McDermott - 0419 258 597