362,000 hectares returned to Traditional Owners in Australia’s far north

Published Wednesday, 07 September, 2022 at 12:24 PM


Premier and Minister for the Olympics
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

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

More than 362,000 hectares of land on Australia’s Cape York Peninsula has been handed back to the Gudang/ Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples in a special ceremony today between Traditional Owners and the Queensland Palaszczuk Government.

Made up of 319,300 hectares of national park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal land) (CYPAL) and 42,799 hectares of Aboriginal freehold land – equivalent to 676,000 football fields - it included land formerly known as Jardine River National Park, Denham Group National Park, part of Heathlands Reserve and Jardine River Reserve; and two offshore islands.

Gerhardt Pearson, Executive Director Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, said:

“It’s simple. Generations of Bama from this area know this land is their birthright.

“Today Queensland will recognise these lands as Atambaya, Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) and Gudang/ Yadhaykenu.

“Rightly so, the Palaszczuk Labor Government and Balkanu continue to work together with First Nations peoples to achieve Aboriginal land ownership and conservation outcomes for this region.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who last month launched the State’s Path to Treaty, said by returning land to Traditional Custodians, we can work together to conserve the significant natural and cultural treasures of the Cape.

“Our Path to Treaty is about finding a place where we can face up to our shared history and be truthful about all of it – good and bad – and build a future together where we value, trust, and respect each other,” the Premier said.

“Today marks another important step on that journey.”

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said many in the community had waited generations to have their land back.  

“This is about land justice,” Minister Scanlon said.

“It’s about supporting the ambitions and aspirations of First Nations communities.

“The historic occasion will see the Gudang/ Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples take ownership of significant tracts of their homelands.

“It marks the government returning more than 4.3 million hectares to Traditional Owners on Cape York – equivalent to size of the country of Switzerland.”

The land will be granted to the Ipima Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and the Atambaya Aboriginal Corporation on behalf of the Traditional Owners.

Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said through this dealing the Native Title parties and government have now entered into an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the grant of Aboriginal lands and dedication of the Apudthama National Park (CYPAL) and Yamarrinh Wachangan Islands (Denham Group) National Park (CYPAL).

The Queensland Government and the Gudang/ Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples, represented by Ipima Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, have also agreed to joint management arrangements over the two national parks (CYPAL).

“The history of First Nations communities is one that’s rich and diverse, and intrinsically linked to the land,” Ms Lui said.

“Today’s ceremony leads the way for our communities to seize new opportunities and make sure their history that has been passed down for generations continues into the future.”

Mr Pearson said the agreements protect the rights of Gudang/ Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples to continue caring for Country as they have for generations.

“This land handback will support Gudang/ Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples to strengthen connection through ownership, protect their culture and share it with visitors to their Country,” Mr Pearson said.

Minister Scanlon said Queensland’s new Apudthama National Park (CYPAL) area represents the largest continuous area of heathlands on Cape York Peninsula and included other diverse landscapes such as grasslands, perched lakes, open woodlands, cloud forests, wetlands and mangroves that connect with islands within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

“These parks are home to unique plants and animals including the Cuscus, Jardine Painted Turtle and the northern most extent of the Southern Cassowary,” Minister Scanlon said.

“The Yamarrinh Wachangan Islands (Denham Group) National Park (CYPAL) supports turtle and sea bird nesting and is a great example of how we can do a better job of looking after the environment when we focus on caring for Country and people.”


Media contact: Francis Dela Cruz – 0420 592 078