The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has today welcomed the handback of Shelburne Bay to the Wuthathi people of Cape York Peninsula after a long struggle to secure the return of their ancestral homelands.
Under this historic agreement, a total of 118,131.6 hectares of land will be returned to Wuthathi ownership. This will include the new 37,282-hectare jointly managed Wuthathi (Shelburne Bay) National Park, the existing Sir Charles Hardy Group and Saunders Islands National Parks and 80,657-hectares of Aboriginal freehold land.
The newly created Wuthathi (Shelburne Bay) National Park will protect a unique and undisturbed landscape of dunes, wetlands, heathlands and rainforests. It is the last landscape of its type within Australia that remains in an undisturbed condition and is of international significance.
ACF first proposed national park for parts of Shelburne Bay in 1976.
“ACF congratulates the Wuthathi people on this historic day that sees the return of their homelands and thanks them for the creation of Australia’s newest national park,” said ACF Northern Australia Project Officer Andrew Picone.
“The return of land to the Wuthathi people is the best way to protect this area’s natural and cultural heritage.
“With support from State and Commonwealth governments, the Wuthathi will be well placed to restore culturally appropriate management to the landscape and establish their own enterprises that deliver strong social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes.
“We look forward to the State Government’s continued support for Indigenous land management and the return of Aboriginal homelands across Cape York.”
Since 1995, the Cape York land tenure resolution process has returned over 3 million hectares of land to Aboriginal ownership. This includes over 2 million hectares of Aboriginal owned and jointly managed national parks and more than 1 million hectares of Aboriginal freehold.
The Cape York Land Council, Balkanu Development Corporation and Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government have been invaluable in delivering these positive outcomes.
ACF acknowledges the support of the Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt, Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Steven Miles, and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham.
To read a blog from ACF Northern Australia project officer Andrew Picone on the Shelburne handback click here