THE site of the old Daintree Mission Cemetery has been handed back to the Kuku Yalanji traditional owners in a ceremony at the Daintree Community Hall yesterday.
The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs Glen Elmes officiated at the handover ceremony.
The Mission was established over Christmas 1941 by the Assemblies of God, under Pastor William Arehurst and his wife, with 50 to 70 indigenous people calling the mission home.
After continual financial struggles the Mission closed in 1961, with many of the people chosing to relocate to the Mossman Gorge Reserve. The land was sold, and the Kuku Yalanji people were denied access to the cemetery by the freehold owner for 50 years.
That changed in 2007 when Allan Quaid purchased the freehold as a cane farm and immedialtely granted the traditional owners access to the cemetery which contains about 200 graves.
Mr Quaid sought the help of John Fraser, CEO of Northern Skills Alliance to unravel the bureaucratic red tape and help facilitate the handover.
‘‘When I spoke to the elders and traditional owners at a meeting in Mossman and told them of Allan’s plans to hand back the cemetery to the traditional owners, there were tears, laughter and prayers of relief,’’ Mr Fraser said.
‘‘Despite the personal hardship, not to mention the considerable costs involved, the official handover made it all worthwhile.’’