Land Reform Unit

Lands Returned to Traditional Owners

To June 2015, Balkanu’s National Parks and State Lands Reform Unit has successfully lead and facilitated negotiations between the Queensland Government and Traditional Owner groups to ensure the return of more than 3.2 million hectares of Cape York Traditional Lands to the traditional owners with fair and equitable outcomes for both parties.  The Cape York Peninsula Land Tenure map attached illustrates where the areas of land have been returned to Traditional Owners as either Aboriginal freehold or National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land).  Table 1 below shows the hectares of land returned to the Traditional Owners to date.   The exceptional partnerships between Balkanu and Traditional Owners have been championed by the Goss, Beattie and Bligh labour governments.

Balkanu and Traditional Owners are optimistic that the Annastacia Palaszczuk Government will continue to support this land reform program that:

  • Supports Indigenous land trusts and corporations in their effectiveness to manage their lands [more info]
  • Supports the economic, social and cultural outcomes for Indigenous land trusts and corporations [more info]
  • Supports and enhances the commercial value of properties acquired for Indigenous groups [more info]
  • Ensures that indigenous access and land management aspirations are recognized and protected in relation to State and Federal Government legislative and policy initiatives [more info]
  • Coordinates appointment of Regional Protected Area Management Committee

 

Table 1: Hectare of land returned to the Traditional Owners

LANDS RETURNED TO TRADITIONAL OWNERS (Year) JOINT NATIONAL PARKS (CYPAL) MANAGED LAND (Hectares)* PRIVTE ABORIGINAL FREEHOLD LAND (Hectares)* NATURE REFUGE LAND (Hectares)* REGIONAL PARK AND (Hectares)*
Silver Plains (2000)

168,000

Starke (Wakooka, Ngulun, Darba) (Finalised 2000) 101,000 (included in 7 National Parks Dealing) 84,100
Marina (Rindoparr) (August 2005) 5,850 (included in 7 National Parks Dealing) 1,020 950
Kalpowar (2005) 166,000 (included in 7 National Parks Dealing) 193,000 28,850
Melsonby (Gaarraay) (2006) 8,990 (included in 7 National Parks Dealing) 10,700 3,610
Running Creek & Lilyvale (2008) 35,600 77,000 45,280
Silver Planins (2000) Mcillwraith/ Mt Croll (2008) 159,000 46,500 5,130 1,330
Errk Oykangand (Mitchell Alice River) (2009) 38,000
Cliff Island (2010) 35
Kalinga/ Mulkay (2010) 42,450 37,100 2,680
Lakefield (Rinyirru) (2011) 544,000
Iron Ranger (Kutini-Payamu) and surrounding Islands (2011) 53,300 3,440
Munburra (2011) 6,700
Archer Bend (2012) 75,100
Mungkan Kandju (Oyala Thumotang) (2012) 381,000 32,200 54
Batavia (2012) 56,000 186,000 79,200
7 National Parks (Cape Melville, Flinders Group, Juunju Daarrba Nnirrpan. Melsonby (Gaarraay) Munndhi (Jack River and Daarrba (2013) 359,000
Mary Valley (2014) 37,800 8,550
Strathmay, Killarney, Crosby, Dixie sand Wulpan (Olkala 5) (2014) 270,000 366,000 48,100 104,000
TOTAL AREA 1,938,385 1,292,460 254,550 105,472

*GIS derived area.  May not be the same as official surveyed records and number later transferred to joint NP (CYPAL) post the passing of the Cape York Peninsula Heritage Act 2007 (Qld).

 

Background

The work of Balkanu’s National Parks and State Land Reform Unit is to secure land ownership and National Park joint management opportunities for Cape York Traditional Owners under the banner of the Queensland Government’s Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program.  The Unit operates in close cooperation with the Cape York Land Council who are the statutory Native Title Representative Body for Cape York people under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and the Queensland Government’s Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Branch of the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (DATSIP).

Balkanu supports the aspirations of Traditional Owners to:

    • Increase their ownership of Cape York Traditional Lands by Indigenous people, clans and communities
    • Maximise the ongoing economic and social outcomes from lands acquired by indigenous groups
    • Ensure that indigenous access and land management aspirations are recognized and protected in relation to State and Federal Government legislative and policy initiatives

National Park Dealings

In October 2007, the Queensland Parliament passed the Cape York Peninsula Heritage Act 2007 (Qld). This Act provides for Aboriginal ownership of all National Parks on Cape York Peninsula, and for joint management of these National Parks by Traditional Owners working in cooperation with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS).

A joint management arrangement for a National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) NP (CYPAL) is established through the development of an Indigenous Management Agreement (IMA).  The IMA also guides the joint management of NP (CYPAL) in accordance with the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld).

In addition, the National Parks and State Land Reform Unit has negotiated agreements for nature refuges in accordance with the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld). The agreements, in part, seek to conserve and provide for the controlled use of natural and cultural resources while acknowledging the continuing presence of sustainable economic and social opportunities for and the activities and entitlements of the Aboriginal people.

State Land Dealings

Balkanu also negotiates on tenure dealings on State-owned and newly acquired lands, with a view to achieving agreement between the parties on returning some areas of land to Traditional Owners as Aboriginal freehold land, while other areas become Aboriginal-owned newly created National Parks (CYPAL).

Balkanu’s National Parks and State Land Reform Unit Team

Our team brings an enormous depth of experience and skills which ensures the highest quality service delivery.  The team has extensive experience in working with Aboriginal people in Cape York, particularly in relation to land tenure, land management and Native Title issues.  The team have strong relationships with Aboriginal people throughout Cape York and a proven track record of helping Aboriginal people meet their economic, social, cultural and environmental aspirations.

Tommy_George_Snr Traditional_Owners_at_Kalinga_Authorisation_Meeting_April_2010 Rinyirru_Lakefield_National_Park
Above:  Tommy George (Snr) and Francis Lee Cheu, receive the ‘Deed of Grant of Land’ to Kalinga on behalf of the Grantees on 26 May 2010. Above:  Traditional Owners, their familes and organisers gather for a group photo after a successful Kalinga Authorisation Meeting in April 2010. Above:  Rinyirri National Park is handed back to Traditional Owners in 2011, with an agreed joint management arrangement between the Traditional Owners and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services.

Balkanu’s National Parks and State Land Reform Unit sucessfully facilitated the hand-back of properties to Tradtional Owners in 2014.

For Example:

Mary Valley Station was ceremoniously handed back on 14 August 2014 to the Thaypan people.  At the Handback Ceremony Traditional Owners from seven Thaypan families signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Conservation Agreement.   This enabled three quarters of the 38,000 hectare property to be returned as Aboriginal freehold land without restriction, and the remaining Aboriginal freehold land to be declared a Nature Refuge that would assist to conserve the natural and cultural values of sandstone escarpments on the property and the Morehead River corridor, whilst enabling continued economic opportunities.  Former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Glen Elmes said “This transfer will provide significant opportunities for economic development including grazing, resource use and tourism”.

Strathmay, Killarney, Crosby, Dixie and Wulpan (Olkola 5 properties) were returned to the Olkola Traditional Owners on 10 December 2014.  The five historic cattle stations comprise the largest area of land, being 737,320 Hectares, to ever be returned to the Traditional Owners of Cape York under the Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program.  At the Olkola Handback Ceremony Gerhardt Pearson, Balkanu Executive Director stated, that “the combined properties we are dealing with today are icons of Cape York and the beef industry.  We have finally reached the heartland and it heartens me for the families whose thamal, (footprints), shall replace those of the former occupiers of these lands”.  What makes this transfer truly unique is that in order to ensure their land is conserved for future generations of all Australians and to enhance opportunities for the general public to enjoy Olkola country, the Olkola people, in a deal with the Queensland Government, have agreed that over half of this land will become new National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) and Regional Park to be managed jointly with Queensland Government.

 James_Barnes__Elizabeth_Lakefield  87Lakefield_Traditional_Owners

 Thaypan_TOs_Mary_Valley_Meeting

Above:  James Barnes and Lizzie Lakefield (Tradtional Owner) represented Balkanu’s National Parks and State Lands Refrom Unit at the Canberra Native Title Conference, providing valuable insight to the Land Reform program and how Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land (CYPAL) National Parks are created. Above:  Lakefield Traditional Owners gather for the first time to discuss the transfers of Lakefield National Park to National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) in March 2009. Above:  The Thaypan Traditional Owners at a water hole that is now protected within an agreed Nature Refuge after the sucessful Mary Valley Authorisation Meeting in April 2014.