Updated: July 01, 2012
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Cape York Peninsula’s Indigenous Conservation Estate
Taking a WildCountry “big picture” approach to conservation, The Wilderness Society is supporting the development of a globally recognised Indigenous Conservation Estate on Cape York Peninsula.
Key elements of a Indigenous Conservation Estate include; co-managed, Aboriginal-owned National Parks, conservation agreements on Aboriginal land, the creation of new Indigenous Protected Areas, and providing resources and support for ‘off reserve’ land management (such as managed wild river catchments).
A visionary ‘Indigenous Conservation Estate’ of global significance is in formation. Indigenous people own and manage approximately 25% of Cape York Peninsula and comprise more than half the population of the region.
Millions of hectares of the Cape are being returned to traditional owners through Aboriginal title and/or, Indigenous Land Use Agreements, creating a mosaic of parks and reserves, protected areas, conservation-managed lands and rivers, and Aboriginal clan estates.
The eventual creation of this Indigenous Conservation Estate on Cape York will be a testament to the enduring Indigenous values of Cape York and is a project of global importance. With the consent and support of Traditional Owners it will lay the foundations for the eventual creation of one of the world’s largest World Heritage areas, and it will make a significant contribution to sustainable economic options for living and working on country.
Working together for Homelands Development and Environmental Protection
Over the last 20 years, The Wilderness Society has worked with Traditional Owners and Indigenous representative organisations, the government and other landholders to develop a positive future for this region of exceptional natural and cultural value.
Recently, we have developed a new style of cooperative agreement to enable and empower The Wilderness Society and Traditional Owner groups / Indigenous organisations to work together for the dual purposes of environmental protection and homelands development.
Our first cooperative agreement is the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation (CAC) – The Wilderness Society Cooperation Agreement, 2005, which focuses on the Northern Kaanju homelands of central Cape York. Since 2005 we have developed a number of cooperative agreements around Australia as a part of our National Indigenous Conservation Program.
Drawing on our combined strengths in caring for country and conservation, western science and Indigenous knowledge, advocacy and negotiation, public outreach and education we are already achieving results.
Helping Achieve Aspirations
The Wilderness Society has worked alongside Traditional Owners to protect, conserve and ensure the return of Traditional homelands to their rightful custodians for many years.
One of the many conservation options we pursue alongside Traditional Owners are Indigenous Protected Areas. For example in June, 2008 Cape York’s first Indigenous Protected Area was declared by our cooperative partners, the Kuuku I’Yu Northern Kaanju Traditional Owners. The Kaanju Ngaachi (Wenlock and Pascoe Rivers) Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) covering some 200,000 hectares of savanna, rainforest, wetland and sandridge country in central Cape York, is just the first step towards the Northern Kaanju peoples aspirations for an IPA over all of their homelands (up to 1 million hectares).
Another way that we work is to pursue policy from the Government to acquire lands for conservation and handback to Traditional Owners. For example, through the State Land Dealings project many more areas have been purchased by the previous Queensland Government and handed back to Traditional Owners in Parks, reserves and as Aboriginal Freehold. For those interested in visiting these new / handed back Aboriginal owned and jointly managed National Parks called Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land there is - Lama Lama National Park, Rinyirru National Park, KULLA (McIlwraith Range) National Park, Alwal National Park, Kutini Payamu (Iron Range) National Park, Mungkan Kaanju National Park, Oyala Thumothang National Park, Marpa National Park.
In addition to all of this, we work towards off-reserve conservation outcomes such as the Wild River Ranger program (now Queensland Land and Sea Indigenous Ranger program). The Wilderness Society secured a commitment for the creation of this program in 2006 and it now employs 50 people in Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria in addition to a junior ranger program run in Cape York. These rangers are looking after one of the most scarce and important resources left on earth - fresh water from free flowing rivers.
For more - See details about The Wilderness Society's work with communities in Cape York including how we worked with the Wuthathi to save Shelburne bay, with the Guugu Yimidhirr for Starcke and much more.
Our commitment to the future
The Wilderness Society has a national commitment to support Traditional Owners achieve their aspirations for environmental protection, sustainable livelihoods and homelands development.
As a part of our commitment, we will continue our work with the Traditional Owners in Cape York to help them achieve their aspirations by advocating together to bring real and sustainable employment in industries that conserve the environment alongside the infrastructure, equipment and resources that go with it.
The Cape York Indigenous Conservation Estate will provide sustainable livelihoods on ancestral homelands, real returns to the regional economy and ensure the maintenance of healthy country. This will contribute significantly to both Cape York’s natural competitive advantage and the environmental, social, cultural and economic wealth of Australia.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Inc