Four national parks including the Daintree rainforest will be handed back to Traditional Owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, in a historic deal with the Queensland government.
More than 160,000 hectares of land in north Queensland stretching from the Daintree north of Port Douglas to south of Cooktown will be jointly managed before a full handover is made to the Kuku Yalanji people.
The agreement was signed by Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford and representatives from the Eastern Kuku Yalanji People on Wednesday at a special ceremony in Bloomfield, north of Wujal Wujal.
The Daintree, Ngalba-bulal, Kalkajaka and the Hope Islands National Parks (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) will now be jointly-managed by Traditional Owners and the Queensland government, while a new nature refuge will also be created.
“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.
She added that the national parks will protect Aboriginal cultural sites, ecosystems, wetlands and mangroves while forming part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
“Today’s hand-back 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,” she said.
“It means there are now 32 Aboriginal-owned and jointly-managed national parks on the Cape York Peninsula.”
Kuku Yalanji committee member Chrissy Grant said four years of negotiations have been an important process to establish the framework for when they solely and wholly manage the land.
“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,” Ms Grant 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 the Covid pandemic.”