IT IS unfortunate tomorrow’s planned handover of 65,000 hectares to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people has been postponed due to record rainfalls.
But the significance of the agreement remains the same, with all stakeholders having negotiated the outcome.
It has been almost 18 years since the Bama (traditional owners) were granted native title over the land and a long struggle to finally have their entitlement properly recognised.
The agreement will also see around 150,000ha between Mossman and Cooktown, which mostly adjoins the Daintree and Ngalba Bulal (Cedar Bay) National Parks, declared as new national park.
For the Bama, the official handover when it is rescheduled will only mark the start of another struggle.
Of the Bama’s 65,000ha being handed over as part of the agreement, only 16,500ha will be available for the development of their social, cultural and economic aspirations.
Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation CEO Francis Walker is rightly concerned about how her people move on from here.
The vast majority of the land’s new custodians do not have the resources to build a home on their land or start a business.
With hundreds of millions of dollars spent on Aboriginal welfare programs every year, the Federal and State Governments now have an ideal opportunity to support the Bama in supporting themselves.
With the help of organisations such as Jabalbina, the land’s custodians can formulate business plans which are sustainable once capital has been provided.
While some may view this as another unnecessary handout, it could actually trigger a reversal of fortune for a proud people who have been mired in disadvantage for generations.
The potential for traditional custodians to establish tourism ventures which attract cashed-up tourists keen for an authentic indigenous experience is certainly there.
Tourism Queensland has identified indigenous tourism as one sector with plenty of growth and the Douglas region already boasts some of the best cultural tours in the country - but there is always room for more.