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Issue #1758      November 23, 2016

Traditional owners get Cape York land

Thousands of hectares of land have been returned to Cape York traditional owners under a deal with the Queensland government. The Balnggarr, Muundhi and Magarmagar peoples, represented by the Balnggarrawarra Aboriginal Corporation, received the land north-west of Cooktown in a ceremony on country attended by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Curtis Pitt.

About half the land will form the new Ngaynggarr National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land). It is named for the orange bloom of the scarlet gum trees which abound in the area.

“The return of Aboriginal freehold land and the creation of a new national park mean traditional owner groups now have new avenues to pursue economic, social and cultural development on their homelands, which, in turn, creates the potential for more jobs and more opportunities,” Pitt said.

“These could include tourism, cultural, agricultural and educational prospects ranging from raising cattle for the domestic market, and visiting and living on country, to enterprises involving teaching traditional skills.

“The Sandstone West and recent Sandstone East (part of the hand-back) land dealings demonstrate our commitment to returning homelands, conserving natural and cultural values, creating opportunities and enhancing employment prospects for Indigenous Queenslanders in remote Cape York areas.”

The hand-back takes to more than 3.4 million hectares the area of land returned to traditional owners under the government’s Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program.

Significance

The Sandstone West area, which is part of the latest hand-back, has strong historical and cultural significance for local people.

The area encompasses a rich cultural landscape including significant rock art and other archaeological sites, as well as important story places and heritage values.

Under the terms of the land transfer, traditional owners will have greater involvement in its care and conservation.

“The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships will work with the Balnggarrawarra Aboriginal Corporation to protect the area’s natural and cultural values,” Pitt said.

“Sustainable land management through continued traditional land management practices including fire, pest and plant control will also help preserve the land for future generations.”

There are now 23 Aboriginal-owned and jointly managed national parks on the Cape York Peninsula covering almost two million hectares.

Koori Mail

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