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High Court recognises islanders' native title rights

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 8 December 2004

Celebrations are under way on Darnley Island in the eastern Torres Strait, off Queensland's Cape York, after the islanders' native title rights were recognised.

The Federal Court conducted a special sitting finalising the title claim.

After years of negotiations, Justice Richard Cooper handed down a consent determination from a bench fringed with palm fronds in the island's gymnasium.

One hundred and fifty people applauded and sang when Justice Cooper handed copies to elders of the Erbam Le people.

They first lodged their claim in 1996 and the head of the Torres Strait Regional Authority Toshe Kris says it is important their connection to the land has been recognised.

"It plays a huge part in our role, it gives them their ties back to the land and the sea to their cultural and spiritual well being," he said.

Justice Cooper will travel to four more communities over the next week to finalise their native title claims.

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