Return of Cape York traditional land a historic land justice and conservation point in space and time

MEDIA RELEASE for immediate release: 17 May 2017

Peak environment group the Queensland Conservation Council has congratulated the Wuthathi, Northern Kaanju and KuKu Y’au Traditional Owners on the formal return of their traditional land on Cape York’s north eastern region, an area formerly known as ‘Bromley’.

Queensland Conservation Council attended the land return ceremony in Cairns today, to welcome the outcomes, and to represent the conservation sector and its long-standing work with Traditional Owners and the state government for land justice and conservation outcomes on Cape York Peninsula.

A unique program established under the Beattie Labor government in the early 2000s has delivered return a total of 1.5 million hectares of land to Cape York Traditional Owners as freehold land, established some 2 million hectares of Aboriginal-owned national parks and a number of nature refuges, and pioneered the transfer of existing national parks to a new model of Aboriginal-owned, jointly managed protected areas.  The process also brought key conservation groups and Indigenous groups together to help finalise tenure resolution outcomes for many parts of Cape York.

The Bromley land, which in common with many other parts of Cape York was a location of forced removal of Indigenous people as well as destructive development proposals, was where Joh Bejelke-Peterson attempted to create a space base in the 1980s, without any consultation with Traditional Owners.

The area is extremely rich in biodiversity and incorporates pristine coastal areas, steep tropical rainforest ranges, white sand country, nationally-significant wetlands, the lower parts of the Olive and Pascoe rivers, sandstone ranges and plains. It is home to forty threatened species including the endangered Southern Cassowary and Semon’s leaf-nosed bat and several rare endemic plant species.

Today’s land return has delivered 109,700 hectares of freehold land back to the Traditional Owners, almost half of which will be turned into nature refuges, and also creates two new brand new national parks:  Bromley (Ampulin) National Park Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land), 40,350 hectares and Bromley (Kungkaychi) National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land), 10,680 hectares.

“Today is a truly great day for the Wuthathi, Northern Kaanju and KuKu Y’au Traditional Owners”, said head of the Queensland Conservation Council, Dr Tim Seelig who was at the ceremony.

“This was a historic occasion for land justice and for conservation, and it was a privilege to be invited. 

“We congratulate the Traditional Owners on the return of their land, and we also thank them for their work to conserve the ecological and cultural values of their land into the future through new national parks and nature refuges.

“We welcome their future endeavours to protect country through eco-tourism and reject options for mining and other resource extraction.

“Today is an exciting occasion for land justice and conservation.  It also marks the endpoint in space and time for one of Cape York’s more ridiculous development proposals – Joh’s space base – and the shameful exercise that excluded Traditional Owners from the process.

“We also acknowledge the efforts of Queensland governments over the past decade and a half to help protect Cape York’s globally significant conservation values and address past land injustices through the Cape York Tenure Resolution Program.”

Queensland Conservation Council acknowledged the work of the conservation sector, in particular the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation, in securing political support and public funds to make the Cape York tenure resolution process possible.

For further information or comment contact:

Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator Dr Tim Seelig on 0439 201 183

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