Historic land handover to Bama delayed
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.”