EMPOWERING Traditional Owners to create new economic opportunities and improving consultation with mining companies will be two key areas of focus for Cape York Land Council’s newly appointed CEO.
Dion Creek wasted little time settling into the role, serving as master of ceremonies at an event recognising the Native Title rights of Traditional Owners in the Northern Peninsula Area last week.
Last month, the Queensland government handed back more than 362,000 hectares of land to the Gudang Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples in a special ceremony.
“It was a huge honour to be there,” the Southern Kaantju man said of the event held in Injinoo.
“All together we’ve had eight (Native Title) determinations in the last 12 months.
“It’s an exciting time for this organisation post-Native Title.”
Mr Creek, whose mother Ann Creek became Cape York Land Council’s first female CEO in 1997, said there was still important work to be done across the Cape.
“My family’s played a very important role in laying CYLC’s foundations, so I’m very privileged to be in this role,” he said.
“The challenge for us will be how do we empower our PBCs (Prescribed Body Corporates) and give them the right structure and support to create employment and opportunity.”
The destruction of Jukkan Gorge, a sacred Aboriginal site in Western Australia, by Rio Tinto in 2020 raised concerns among Traditional Owners about the influence of mining companies, Mr Creek said.
“One of the things we need to look at are the mining exploration permits,” he said.
“At the moment, anyone can lodge an EPM (Exploration Permit Minerals).
“We want to look at those and ensure that Traditional Owners’ interests are protected.
“My approach would be that in the future there must be culture heritage management done and full consultation before any dirt is moved.”
Mr Creek is well known across Cape York as a long-time Coen resident and an advocate for Traditional Owner rights in the region.
Cape York Land Council chairman Richie Ah Mat said Mr Creek was the right person for the job.
“We need strong leadership and we need a strong voice for Traditional Owners,” Mr Ah Mat said.
“Dion’s track record of leadership in various organisations across the Cape, and his work as a former CYLC board director give him a valuable insight into the priorities and the challenges that face us as a land council.”
“I am looking forward to a productive relationship that will benefit all Cape York Pama.”