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Wik Decision

The Wik Decision is a decision of the Australian High Court in December 1996, following a case brought by the Wik people of Cape York in North Queensland. It concerns only their right of access to the land held under pastoral leases (ie Crown land used - but not owned - by pastoralists for cattle grazing). The court decided (4 judges to 3) that indigenous people who can prove a connection to the land may have rights to hold ceremonies and perform other traditional activities - as long as they don't interfere with the pastoralists' legitimate activities.

In other words, pastoral leases do not automatically give exclusive possession to the pastoralist, and therefore do not necessarily extinguish native title. This had been a major assumption upon which the Commonwealth Native Title Act had first been drafted. The Wik Decision holds that native title might co-exist on pastoral leases, but the rights of pastoral leaseholders prevail over any inconsistent rights that native title holders might have.