160,000 hectares returned on path to reconciliation

Published Wednesday, 29 September, 2021 at 01:00 PM


Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs
The Honourable Meaghan Scanlon

Minister for Seniors and Disability Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
The Honourable Craig Crawford

More than 160,000 hectares of land in Cape York has been handed back to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people in a historic announcement today by the Palaszczuk Government and Traditional Owners.

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford and representatives from the Eastern Kuku Yalanji People signed an agreement this morning at a special ceremony in Bloomfield, north of Wujal Wujal.

It will see the handback of four national parks, including the world-famous Daintree National Park, and stretch from north of Port Douglas to south of Cooktown, while a new nature refuge will also be created.

The Daintree, Ngalba-bulal, Kalkajaka and the Hope Islands National Parks (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) will now be jointly-managed by the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and Queensland Government.

Eastern Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owners Negotiating Committee Member Chrissy Grant said as a member of the Traditional Owners Negotiating Committee (TONC) over the last 4 years, the negotiations with the governments and other parties have been an extremely important process to undertake for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama to enter into a joint management arrangement for our National Parks that will eventually be solely and wholly managed by the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama.

“Our goal is to establish a Foundation to provide confident and competent people with pathways and opportunities for mentoring, training, apprenticeships, work experience and employment for our Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama to fill positions from a wide range of skilled trades, land and sea management, hospitality, tourism, and research so that we are in control of our own destinies, ” Ms Grant said.

“On 29 September 2021, this significant historic event becomes legal and a reality for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama to realise our vision for a more promising future for all our people.

“I want to thank the TONC members, Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, and particularly our legal advisers who fought for the best that we could get through some trying times as well as having to deal with keeping everyone safe from the Covid pandemic.”

Minister Scanlon said Australia has an uncomfortable and ugly shared past in this country, and the handback was a key step on the path towards reconciliation.

“The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people’s culture is one of the world’s oldest living cultures and this agreement recognises their right to own and manage their Country, to protect their culture and to share it with visitors as they become leaders in the tourism industry,” Minister Scanlon said.

“These national parks will protect important Aboriginal cultural sites, diverse ecosystems including rainforests, woodlands, wetlands and mangroves, and form part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area which is recognised as the second most irreplaceable world heritage site on Earth.”

Minister Scanlon acknowledged the efforts of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and their advisors, the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, the Cape York Land Council, the North Queensland Land Council, the Wet Tropics Management Authority and officers from the Department of Environment and Science.

“Today’s handback marks the government returning more than 3.8 million hectares of land back to Traditional Owners on Cape York, with 2.3 million hectares to be jointly-managed by our rangers and the community.

“It means there are now 32 Aboriginal-owned and jointly-managed national parks on the Cape York Peninsula.”

Minister Crawford, who is spending two days in Wujal Wujal, said the land handback is the first place in Queensland and Australia where Traditional Owners will simultaneously take on ownership and have a significant role in joint management of a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

“It is truly ground-breaking and shows that the Palaszczuk Government is committed to reconciliation, Treaty and righting the wrongs of past generations.

“Some of the benefits for the TO’s will be funds provided annually and in perpetuity for the joint management of the national parks.

“We will also provide funds to develop a tourism hub at Dubudji, first options for contracting on national parks, first rights to consider new tourism proposals, and endeavour to increase the skills and numbers of Jabalbina Indigenous rangers.”

Queensland Conservation Council Protected Areas Campaign Manager Andrew Picone said the Daintree is globally significant for its natural and cultural heritage and returning these parks to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji is the best way to protect these values.

"The Palaszczuk government's tenure resolution program is the longest running and most successful land use and conservation planning initiative in Australia,” Mr Picone said.

“Returning the World Heritage Daintree to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji demonstrates the Palaszczuk government’s leadership and support of First Nations’ management of our protected area estate.”

Images and videos from today’s ceremony will be uploaded and available here: https://bit.ly/2XTfjSM


 Media contacts:

 Francis Dela Cruz (Minister Scanlon) – 0420 592 078

Peter Michael (Minister Crawford) – 0477 948 091