An exciting milestone for an ambitious Cape York tourism project was reached on 17 December 2014 when the first leg of the Dreaming Track was officially launch by Federal Member for Leichardt, Warren Entsch, at the Cooktown’s Grassy Hill lookout.
It was a proud day for the Gamaay people, the Traditional Owners of the land on the north shore of Cooktown on which the track was built.
Under the supervision of Balkanu Cape York Corporation, a committed workforce of Gamaay people constructed the 20 kilometres of class five track in a record time – from April to December 2014.
“It is an awesome experience to walk it and have customers visit our country,” said Traditional Owner Erica Deeral at the launch on Grassy Hill.
Another Tradtional Owner, Patrick Morris, said he felt “so proud to see someone smile when they see the view from the top.”
The Gamaay Traditional Owners were dedicated to the porject, with 100% worker attendance during the tough construction phase and full commitment from design, to consultation, to completion.
Gerhardt Pearson, Chief Executive of Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, paid tribute to the determination and grit of the Gamaay people through the duration of phase one of the project.
“The Traditional Owners have been integral to the design, the community consultations, the research and the construction of the “Track,” he said at the opening. “Tradiitional Owners must show commitment and ownership of their project through the construction phase, as this flows on throught the business developement and into the running of a successful business.”
Mr Warren Entsch was delighted with the Walking Track and it’s ultimate goal to snake more than 1000 kilometres from outside Cairns to the tip of the Cape, which will provide economic opportunties and culture sharing for dozens of Tradtional Owner groups along the way.
“Quite frankly, I think this has the potential to be one of our national greatest walks,” Mr Entsch enthused after the opening.
Now Gamaay Traditional Owners are very eager to start on the next part of the journey – to open the Track to the public by April 2015 and to develop the next phase, building businesses associated with it such as fishing guided and non-guided tours, bushwalker collection services and camping sites.
Balkanu Cape York Developement Corporation, which is assisting the Tradtional Owners wih their aspirations, continues to work with the Gamaay people on their business plans. It is expected that Gamaay clan will need up to two years of support developing their businesses, marketing their products and services and running the booking facilities.
Balkanu’s specialty is in providing practical business development and mentoring structures for Traditional Owners and will walk the journey with the Gamaay people and other Traditional Owner groups as the project winds it’s way up the Cape over the next few decades.
But the project requires a continuation of funding to help Traditional Owners realise their dreams. The first phase of feasibililty, market research, design and construction was completed throught an injection of capital from both the Commonwealth and State of Queensland.