The Australian state of Queensland returned last Wednesday the Daintree Rainforest to its original Aboriginal owners the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people in a ceremony.
The 135-million-year-old tropical rainforest is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 and is famous for its stunning white beaches and rich biodiversity.
The 160,000 hectares of land in Cape York have come under sustained pressure from climate change and industries such as logging, local media reported.
Eastern Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owners Negotiating Committee Member Chrissy Grant said as a member of the Traditional Owners Negotiating Committee (TONC) over the last 4 years, the negotiations with the governments and other parties have been an extremely important process.
“Our goal is to establish a Foundation to provide confident and competent people with pathways and opportunities for mentoring, training, apprenticeships, work experience, and employment for our Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama to fill positions from a wide range of skilled trades, land and sea management, hospitality, tourism, and research so that we are in control of our own destinies, ” Ms. Grant said.
Queensland state environment minister Meaghan Scanlon said Australia has an uncomfortable and ugly shared past in this country, and the handback was a key step on the path towards reconciliation.
“The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people’s culture is one of the world’s oldest living cultures and this agreement recognises their right to own and manage their country, to protect their culture, and to share it with visitors as they become leaders in the tourism industry,” Scanlon said in a statement.
“These national parks will protect important Aboriginal cultural sites, diverse ecosystems including rainforests, woodlands, wetlands and mangroves, and form part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area which is recognised as the second most irreplaceable world heritage site on Earth.”