In 1990, despite numerical dominance and unbroken occupation, the Aboriginal people of Cape York Peninsula had little influence over the management of their traditional land or control over political and social direction.
At this time, the proposal to develop a space base at Shelburne Bay, with its political, social, environmental and cultural repercussions served to galvanise the 17 communities of Cape York Peninsula into collective action.
This collective action culminated in the formation of Cape York Land Council at the Remote Community Futures Conference in Townsville in July 1990. With the symbolic signing of an Aboriginal flag by all those people who supported the principle it was a hallmark commitment to regional unity. That unity has provided the foundation for the Council’s subsequent success. Communities that had little history of working together recognised the need to support each other’s fight to regain their country.
Today the Land Council with the same principle of unity exists to advance the self-determination of Aboriginal people of the Cape York Peninsula, ensure the continuation of traditional culture, provide for general social welfare, and ascertain the wishes, aspirations and opinions of its members relating to the management, use and control of traditional Aboriginal land in Cape York.
The Cape York Land Council Aboriginal Corporation was incorporated under the Aboriginal Councils and Association Act 1976(Cth) and is recognised as a public benevolent institution. In July 2007, the new Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) Act 2006 (Cth) was enacted to replace the Aboriginal Councils and Association Act. Cape York Land Council has undertaken necessary changes to its corporate structure in order to comply with the new Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) Act.