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Issue #1596      June 5, 2013

Protection for land and sea

Traditional Owners gathered deep in the heart of Far North Queensland’s Wet Tropics rainforest last month to dedicate more than 70,000 hectares of “bubu and jalun” (land and sea) as an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).

Traditional Owner Uncle David Solomon signs off on the IPA. (Photo: Koori Mail)

Encompassing the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef, Eastern Kuku Yalanji is the traditional home to the Jalunji-Warra and the Kuku Nyungkal groups, who came together with federal Environment Minister Tony Burke and non-Indigenous supporters to herald what was hailed as a new way of working on country.

Known as the Eastern Kuku Yalanji IPA, stage 2, Jalunji-Warra country takes in Cairns Reef in the north through to the mouth of the Daintree River in the south and extending to the eastern edge of the Great Barrier Reef, with Kuku Nyungkal country focusing on the upper Annan River.

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation chairperson and traditional owner Robyn Bellafquih said that the IPA dedication ceremony was an acknowledgement and celebration of Elders past and present who had fought for the right to exercise more control over their traditional land and sea.

“In 2007 we got some land back and our native title acknowledged,” she said.

“But now throughout Eastern Kuku Yalanji IPA our bama (people) will finally have the capacity to take a lead role again in making decisions about our country and managing it like our old people did before.”

Jalunji-Warra Traditional Owner and Indigenous advisory committee deputy chair Chrissy Grant said the IPA was a significant step towards cultural recognition, and would create rich cultural and economic opportunities.

“We’ve got world heritage all around us through the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef, and there’s not a real industry for Traditional Owners to get engaged in other than the tourism industry,” she said.

“Through land and sea management, which is really important to maintain and look after those cultural values, having an IPA allows us to be engaged in that process. It allows the Traditional Owners to work on country through the ranger system, and that’s through the Commonwealth and the State ranger programs.

Values

“While a lot of areas are under national park and world heritage, we have to work with partners to be able to maximise what we can do in maintaining not only the cultural values but also the biodiversity values. It’s critical that we maintain both.”

Ms Grant said the short-term vision would be to get rangers on the ground, and long term to have clan ranger groups working in their own IPA area.

Jalunji-Warra Traditional Owner Uncle David Solomon also welcomed the IPA and said that for generations to come Aboriginal people would be able to learn about country and take care of land the traditional way, as well as pass on those valuable skills and knowledge.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said the IPA would link world heritage with Indigenous conservation and management, and therefore create greater understanding of Indigenous culture.

“This is a great step forward. By using traditional knowledge alongside modern science, by having world-class management plans in place, we are doing our best to look after this crucial part of our country for future generations,” he said.

Koori Mail  

Next article – March against Monsanto

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