CEO Message

Chief Executive Officer - Peter Callaghan
Chief Executive Officer - Peter Callaghan

Now in its twenty sixth year the Cape York Land Council continues to operate true to the guiding vision of its founding Elders.

Since 1990 the Cape York Land Council has operated true to the guiding vision of its founding Elders to represent and support the Aboriginal peoples of Cape York to regain rights to land and sea, so that culture is preserved and to assist people to make their own decisions to achieve a better future.

As the Native Title Representative this provided certainty for CYLC to support native title holders until the end of the 2014 – 15 financial year.  On 16 February 2015 CYLC applied to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DP&C) for re-recognition as the Cape York NTRB for 2015 – 16 with confirmation of CYLC’s re-recognition received on 2 June 2015.

Thirteen ILUAs were registered with the National Native Title Tribunal for the Cape York region over 2014 – 15, with CYLC support negotiations continue for several more.  CYLC has entered into contracts with the State to represent Traditional Owners in negotiations with the Mapoon, Pormpuraaw and Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Councils for ILUAs which will provide simplified native title processes and compensation formulas for a wide range of developments in these towns.  The Town ILUAs will facilitate social, cultural and economic advancement whilst also recognising the rights of Traditional Owners and providing benefits from development on their lands.  I believe these ILUAs will help to unlock the entrepreneurial potential of Cape York’s Aboriginal people and assist traditional owners to escape welfare dependence.

In addition to consolidating native title rights and interests CYLC remains committed to securing Aboriginal freehold and other land rights for Cape York’s Aboriginal people.  To achieve this CYLC shares legal expertise and other resources in a partnership with Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation to assist State Lands Dealings (SLD) processes.  On 9, 10 December 2014 I witnessed the Olkola SLD deal that saw the Strathmay, Crosbie, Killarney, Dixie and Wulpan properties, totalling 785,410 hectares, handed over to the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation.

To assist the Cape York United Number 1 NTDA process, RNTBCs and other interested parties to engage with Cape York’s Traditional Owners, CYLC has commenced development of a master genealogical database for Cape York.  When completed this genealogical database will provide consolidated and comprehensive information regarding Traditional Owners who speak for country and will greatly assist in engaging the right people in native title consents and other processes.

CYLC also continued to deliver support to RNTBCs so they fulfil their corporate responsibilities and gain benefit for native title parties from native title determinations.

The PBC Support Unit offers a suite of tools aimed at strengthening the capacity of Directors to capably manage the challenges of operating their PBC.  The challenges of both day-to-day and strategic management often require skills in financial management and achieving economic development, effective partnerships and collaborations and Traditional Owner consultation and consent.

Over 2014 – 15 the PBC Support Unit engaged four PBCs in governance training – Abm Elgoring Ambung, Jabalbina Yalanji, Mokwiri and Ngan Aak-Kunch.  It is proposed that remaining Cape York PBCs will also have the opportunity to participate in this training.  The training package is made up of a number of modules developed and delivered in conjunction with Dr Karen Martin, a Quandamooka woman from North Stradbroke Island.  The modules explore corporate identity, codes of conduct, valuing the expertise and experience in the room, Indigenous governance and corporate governance.  Training was well received by Directors.

CYLC shares many objectives in common with other organisations and working in partnership and sharing resources and ideas is often the most effective way of achieving progress.  Over 14-15 CYLC worked with other Queensland Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs), Cape York Regional Organisations (CYROs), government agencies and others to advance our objectives.

CYLC is a member of the Queensland Representative Body Alliance (QRBA).  Under this alliance NTRB Chairs, CEOs, PLOs and relevant staff meet to share information about our operations responding to future acts, addressing proposed reforms to legislations and issues of common interest.

United QRBA meets with Ministers and bureaucrats to discuss key issues affecting them with the Council of Australian Government (COAG).

The National Native Title Conference (NNTC) was co-hosted this year by CYLC and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).  The conference was held over 16-18 June 2015 at Port Douglas and was a great success.  I was proud of the effort of CYLC staff and the Cape York community for welcoming delegates from all over Australia and ensuring their experience at the conference was a positive one.

In May 2015 the Cape York Summit brought together more than 200 Cape York leaders from RNTBCs, native title applicants, Traditional Owner groups, community and other organisations showing solidarity as they discussed Rights, Recognition and Empowerment.  Participants discussed their land, the Cape York United Number 1 NTDA and the next steps required to develop a Cape York economy and the need for the Cape York community to unite to support a “new season’ of individual responsibility and prosperity.

As tangible evidence of the growing engagement of Cape York’s Aboriginal people in economic activity, on 14 November 2014 I attended a ceremony to celebrate the signing of a new agreement between Congress Aboriginal Corporation and Cape Flattery Silica Mine about benefits for Traditional Owners from the mining activity.  CYLC’s Future Acts Unit has worked hard to provide advice to Traditional Owners about their rights to negotiate with mining proponents and support them to be better informed and strike better deals to protect their native title and to receive benefits for impacts to their native title rights, such as employment opportunities.

It is clear that Cape York Traditional Owners are still actively engaged in shaping development and striking deals that provide the best outcomes for their communities.  I am continuously impressed by the capacity and passion of the Aboriginal people of Cape York to stand up for their rights and strive for a better future.  This year once again we have seen the Wik people at the cutting edge of asserting Aboriginal rights to land and resources and looking to have a significant stake in mining development on their land.  CYLC supports the Wik people in upholding their rights and will continue to do so.

Financial matters were also at the forefront of CYLC’s internal issues over 2014 – 15 with significant pressures on our financial situation.  Like most other NTRBs CYLC made several submissions to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding round in October 2014, but like many other applicants CYLC was unsuccessful with our bid. This was very disappointing for CYLC given our submission had great merit.

In June 2015, the Queensland Government’s Wild Rivers declarations were found to be invalid by Justice Greenwood.  CYLC was awarded costs in this matter and a claim has now been submitted to the State.

Ongoing delivery of CYLC’s broad ranging functions depends upon good governance, human resource management and financial accountability.  CYLC strives to excel in these areas so that service delivery is optimal.  CYLC’s financial management continues to be transparent and accountable and for the eighth successive year an unqualified audit report was received.

CYLC’s corporate governance processes in 2015 will include a Board election so activities have commenced to raise awareness of the election process with Board members and the communities they represent.

Due to financial constraints and our need to facilitate the new direction that had been formulated, in particular the Cape York United Number 1 NTDA, CYLC undertook a restructure at the end of 2014 to ensure we had a leaner structure whilst retaining operational effectiveness.  I would like to commend CYLC staff for their competence and commitment, whether they work in law, administration, policy, management, finance or any other role, for remaining focussed on delivering outcomes under all circumstances and I express my ongoing thanks to all the staff for their ongoing efforts.  In particular I’d like to commend my Deputy CEO Kirstyne Broderick for reaching the milestone of having worked at CYLC for 18 years.  Kirstyne has been a stalwart in her ongoing efforts for the Traditional Owners of Cape York.

CYLC also receives support from external partners including Westpac, QBE and the Australian Government, from Aurora secondees who provide good support to our legal and anthropological staff and from secondees provided to CYLC and through CYLC to our Cape communities, from Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partners including KPMG.

Finally, but certainly not least, I want to thank our Elders, Traditional Owners, Chairman Richie Ah Mat and the Board and the Aboriginal people of Cape York for their cooperative spirit, their respect for all that those who have come before them and their desire to work towards a better day for all those who will come after them.

Peter Callaghan, Chief Executive Officer

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PBC Hub

We’ve been kicking the dust throughout Cape York for more than 20 years. Here’s a snapshot of some of our successes around the Cape York Region and Traditional Owner PBC's throughout Cape York.

Our Resources

On a regular basis we produce informative publications which act to communicate to our constituents and the public the aims, objective and activities with regards to land dealing as well as other Indigenous related issues.

Cape York Links

Cape York Land Council is a part of an integral network of Indigenous service organisations that have been working to improve the lives and social conditions of the people of Cape York through positive empowerment.