Going home made easier
JABALBINA Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation is leading the way in helping indigenous people “get back to their country” as part of an innovative new project.
The organisation’s planning and development co-ordinator Rowan Shee said one of the biggest hurdles for indigenous people wanting to build their own homes can be native title.
“A lot of people who live in the Mossman and Port Douglas region would like to ’go back to their country’ because they do not feel they belong here but it is very difficult for them to return,” Mr Shee said.
“In many cases if an indigenous person wants to return to country and to build a home they must, under native title, seek out all of the people who are traditional owners of that land to get permission to build and there could be hundreds, even thousands of people to ask and so it becomes an almost impossible task.”
And it’s not just building homes, it can affect a range of business plans too, Mr Shee said.
“There are a number of indigenous people who would like to start cattle grazing operations or even sustainable timber farming but the amount of government red tape just makes it nearly impossible and so it leaves a lot of people feeling frustrated and angry because they just want to get on and do things,” Mr Shee said.
“Also tourism has huge potential for people to use their own knowledge and understanding of their country but this avenue isn’t available to them either.
“Hosting visits from the many scientists and a myriad of students that come here to study all manner of things would be of great benefit as would building a cultural and community centre but there is so much red tape to comply with it just makes people very despondent and so they give up.”
But there is some light at the end of the tunnel because Mr Shee has put together a plan to tackle these issues and a free lecture on the three different perspectives of how the planning system influences development on Indigenous-owned land will be presented at a free public lecture at James Cook University in Cairns today.
He will talk about the planning issues the Eastern Yalanji people have encountered.
He is presently helping establish the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Protected Area, working on a range of land trust and native title projects including running natural resource management projects and development applications for Eastern Yalanji people moving back to country.
Meanwhile, the chairman of Jabalbina, Robyn Bellafquih, said she was anticipating that the planning process would be less encumbered and Eastern Kuku Yalanji people could more easily get back to living sustainably on their traditional estates.
“It has been 18 years of hard work and the reality is that still less than a handful of our people have their own homes or businesses on country,” Ms Bellafquih said.
“We have produced community development plans including Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) conditions with agencies and councils and are now tackling the red tape of the planning processes.”