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New laws for National Parks recognise Traditional Owners and improve tenure resolution on Cape York

New laws for National Parks recognise Traditional Owners and improve tenure resolution on Cape York
May 20, 2016

The Queensland Government has passed laws that guarantee future governments must always work closely with Aboriginal and Islander communities to manage national parks, especially in Cape York.

Queensland National Parks Minister Dr Steven Miles said the legislation acknowledged the importance of involving indigenous people in protected areas in which they had “an interest under Aboriginal tradition or Island custom’, explaining “this is in addition to ensuring that the focus of our national park system is the conservation of nature.”

Dr Miles said amendments to the Nature Conservation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 strengthened recognition of Indigenous people in the joint management of conservation areas on the Cape York Peninsula, known as “national parks (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land ([CYPAL]).”

He added “the Act now guarantees that government must follow due process for consulting with the Indigenous landholders of these jointly managed national parks.

“That’s already how Queensland’s Parks and Wildlife Service operates, and I’m pleased that the Parliament has now guaranteed that there’ll never be a backward step on this commitment.

“Eight local Indigenous groups are involved in management of the Lakefield National Park on the Cape York Peninsula, and more than 40 Indigenous rangers have now been trained,” Dr Miles said.

“This is a great example of strong working relationships between government and Traditional Owners.

“Some of the rangers are in full-time employment with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and are trained in areas including fire management, fencing and forestry,’ he said.

The new law streamlines the process of converting Cape York’s Regional Parks into the ‘national parks (CYPAL)’ category.

This is an important contribution to Cape York Peninsula’s Tenure Resolution Program, which returns land ownership to Traditional Owners through these jointly managed national parks. Over 250,000 hectares of land could become part of the Tenure Resolution Program over coming years.

Olkola Aboriginal Corporation Chairman Michael Ross commended the Queensland Government for “recognising Indigenous people” but said the passing of the Bill was only the “start of that journey’.

Ross “we wanted to be part of the making of the (NCOLA) Bill because we own the land. It’s our country. It’s our land they (Queensland Government) are talking about, and it always will be no matter which Government is in power.

“The legislation is the foundation which we needed to be a part of. I’m not the only Traditional person who thinks that. We own the land under Australian Law and it’s a part of our traditional country, and the Bill needed to support that.

“If we are serious and the Government is serious about what we are doing, we have to look further and recognising Indigenous people in the defining section of the Bill is the start of that journey.”

Image: Olkola National Park.

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