|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:
Table 1: Hectare of land returned to the Traditional Owners
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:
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.
Balkanu's National Parks and State Land Reform Unit sucessfully facilitated the hand-back of properties to Tradtional Owners in 2014.
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.