10 May 2023

Cape York land returned to Traditional Owners

| Cape York Weekly
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Representatives from the Eastern Kuku Yalanji People last week signed an agreement with state government ministers at a special ceremony in Bloomfield, north of Wujal Wujal.

The agreement 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 will now be jointly-managed by the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and the Queensland government.

Chrissy Grant said as a member of the Traditional Owners Negotiating Committee over the last four years, the negotiations had been an important process to undertake.

“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,” she said.

“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 COVID.”

Last week’s ceremony was an emotional one for Yalanji traditional owner and Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation director Mary-Anne Port.

“This is where we belong on country, on bubu – on land. All our ancestors called us back to home,” she said on Wednesday.

“I broke down – to get it all back in a battle that we’ve lost so many, young and old, that fought for country and now it’s all back.”

Queensland Conservation Council campaign manager Andrew Picone said the Daintree was globally significant for its natural and cultural heritage and returning these parks to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji was the best way to protect these values.

“The state government’s tenure resolution program is the longest running and most successful land use and conservation planning initiative in Australia,” he said.

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

Native Title had already been established over much of the land, but the traditional custodians wanted more than recognition.

“We’d like to see all our young people step up now and (be) doing work on country, learning about cultural sites, where they come from,” Jalunji and Nyungkul Elder Maree Shipton said.

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