His­toric land han­dover to Bama de­layed

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

THE fi­nal han­dover of 65,000 hectares of land to the East­ern Kuku Yalanji peo­ple de­scribed as Queens­land’s most sig­nif­i­cant land agree­ment has been post­poned.

The han­dover was sup­posed to take place at a tra­di­tional cer­e­mony in Di­wan to­mor­row fol­low­ing 18 years of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween stake­hold­ers but will now have to be resched­uled be­cause of heavy rains in the area.

The land agree­ment will see around 150,000ha of land be­tween Moss­man and Cook­town, which mostly ad­joins the Dain­tree and Ngalba Bu­lal (Cedar Bay) National Parks, de­clared as new national park.

Of the re­main­ing 65,000ha which forms the agree­ment, only 16,500ha will be avail­able for the de­vel­op­ment of the East­ern Kuku Yalanji’s so­cial, cul­tural and eco­nomic as­pi­ra­tions.

The re­main­der will be de­clared as Na­ture Refuge.

Ja­bal­bina Yalanji Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion CEO Paul Bar­rett said the land hand­back was an­other step for­ward but it could amount to lit­tle with­out govern­ment sup­port.

“Get­ting the land back is great but if Bama (tra­di­tional own­ers) can’t ac­cess re­sources to de­velop the land in a way that pro­vides hous­ing and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, then it could be of lit­tle ben­e­fit,” Mr Bar­rett said.

“As well as hav­ing lim­ited re­sources to de­velop the land, much of it is also listed as World Her­itage area and so can­not be used for com­mer­cial pur­poses like ad­ja­cent free­hold land which is ex­cluded from the World Her­itage area.”

Dur­ing the strug­gle, which be­gan with a na­tive ti­tle claim in 1994, the out­come was de­scribed in 2007 by then-Premier Peter Beat­tie as “the most sig­nif­i­cant land agree­ment ever made in Queens­land”.

At the time, tra­di­tional own­ers agreed to 15 In­dige­nous Land Use Agree­ments cov­er­ing 230,000ha en­com­pass­ing the north­ern part of the Wet Trop­ics World Her­itage area, in­clud­ing some of the most en­vi­ron­men­tally im­por­tant coun­try in the world.

Ja­bal­bina chair­per­son Fran­cis Walker and her di­rec­tors are con­cerned.

“It’s a two-edged sword, it’s good for Bama to get the bubu (land) back but if we don’t have the re­sources and ca­pac­ity to de­velop that bubu for our eco­nomic and so­cial well­be­ing, there will be lit­tle sus­tain­able ben­e­fit,” she said.

“Once we get the bubu back, how are we go­ing to meet all the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as­so­ci­ated with land own­er­ship and also as­sist Bama to achieve their as­pi­ra­tions, with our lim­ited re­sources?”

Ms Walker said some de­vel­op­men­tal work had al­ready been done in small ar­eas by ded­i­cated tra­di­tional own­ers.

“But the big chal­lenges of es­tab­lish­ing ad­e­quately fa­cil­i­tated liv­ing ar­eas and sus­tain­able busi­ness enterprises can only be met with the com­mit­ted sup­port and as­sis­tance of State and Com­mon­wealth Gov­ern­ments,” she said.

“So­ci­ety wants to pre­serve the en­vi­ron­men­tal val­ues of our bubu but that need to pre­serve what hasn’t al­ready been dis­turbed by coloni­sa­tion, takes away our right to de­ter­mine for our­selves, as Bama, how we can best use the re­sources on our bubu for the ben­e­fit of our cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

“This is a mile­stone day but it is a mile­stone at the start of a long very road.

“Bama look for­ward to the day when we are fully re­spon­si­ble for car­ing for our bubu and when we can truly and in­de­pen­dently pros­per from our enterprises on our bubu.”

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