Traditional owners MUST make
decisions over their country

Indigenous land transfer in doubt for 160,000ha in Queensland

Michael McKenna
Published 27.12.2019 – The Australian

A review has been launched into the possible wrongful transfer of land title by the Queensland government across more than 160,000ha of Aboriginal land.

The move comes after the Palaszczuk government blamed an “administrative error’’ for the 1994 invalid transfer of title on a separate 140,000ha of Cape York that indigenous groups ­allege deprived them of their ­native title rights.

State officials were forced to overturn the title on the Heathlands and Jardine River ­Resource Reserves, near the tip of the peninsula, after evidence the state had leapfrogged steps in transferring the land to a conservation tenure.

It led to the state pushing for an expanded national park area at the expense of land that could have been set aside for Aboriginal freehold to enable economic development under a land hand-back program on Cape York.

This week, the state government agreed to review the validity of a further 34 “resource reserve” titles — covering more than 160,000ha across the state from Cape York to north of Noosa — issued in a block of transfers in 1994.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said a review would be launched after alleged problems were identified by the ­Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, which also exposed the wrongful titles over the Heathlands and Jardine River areas.

“The department is not aware of any areas having been ‘invalidly declared’ but will conduct a review to confirm their validity,” Ms Enoch said.

“The Queensland government is committed to returning these lands to traditional owners, and will not progress finalising additional national park tenure arrangements without agreement from traditional owners.”

The state government earlier said “other dedications of ­resource reserve” needed to be scrutinised.

Under the charter of the land return program, conservation areas were to be restricted to half of the land area with the rest to be Aboriginal freehold to enable economic development.

Cape York leaders this year proved the state had transferred the Heathlands and Jardine River areas to resource reserve without first declaring it crown land in a move that effectively denied Aboriginal groups a right to have their native title rights recognised.

A letter to Balkanu shows the state Environment Department finally admitted in May to the ­invalid transfer and blamed it on an “administrative error”.

It was alleged the transfer ­undermined traditional owners’ rights and, because of stronger conservation provisions under resource reserve titles, led to the state pushing for 80 per cent of the land to be declared national park.

Gerhardt Pearson, executive director of Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, said he welcomed the government’s announcement it would “investigate the potentially wrongful changes in title’’.

Congratulations Reginald Williams

Order of Australia Award – Saturday 14 September 2019

On Saturday 14 September, at a ceremony held in Cairns, Reginald (Reg) Williams was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia by His Excellency the Governor General for service to the Indigenous community of Queensland. 

The award recognises Reg’s role as Chairperson of Ipima Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation and  Apudthama Land Trust (2012-2016) as well as his leadership as a board member with TSRA, ICC, TSIRC, NPARC, Bamaga Island Council and Bamaga Enterprises. 

Cape York Land Council is proud to celebrate the success of one of Cape York’s regional leaders and is proud to work with and support the Ipima Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC.

Your Land – Your Say

DEPUTY Premier Jackie Trad has been secretly lobbying aboriginal elders to lockup tribal land to mining on Cape York.

Ms Trad is spearheading a push to “protect” vast tracts of aboriginal land from mining interests as part of negotiations with traditional owners of three native title groups in remote far north Queensland.

Under the deal, a huge swath of Cape York — totalling more than one million hectares — would be nominated as protected land to shut-out any future mining exploration projects and is a possible prelude to a blanket World Heritage-listing push by the Labor Party.

It comes as a Jangga tribal elder, whose country adjoins the Adani mine, warned Ms Trad of “war” with… click here for more

Support builds for Uluru Statement from the Heart



The news that Australia’s two largest resource companies, BHP and Rio Tinto are backing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and substantive constitutional recognition including a Voice to Parliament, is welcomed by Indigenous leaders in Cape York.

BHP and Rio Tinto today announced shared support for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and BHP’s commitment to investment in a public education campaign on the Uluru Statement.

The Chair of the Cape York Land Council, Richie Ah Mat, said today’s pledge shows that the Australian community is increasingly understanding that the Indigenous Voice to Parliament is essential to the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and closing the gap on disadvantage.

Only when Indigenous people are empowered to take part in the decisions that affect them will policy be properly targeted and outcomes improved.

BHP and Rio Tinto join national bodies such as the Australian Medical Association, Australian Council of Social Services, leading universities, and key influential figures across the political spectrum such as Jeff Kennett, Kevin Rudd and Alan Jones, have endorsed the Uluru Statement and the Voice to Parliament.

Big business coming together around the Indigenous Voice to Parliament shows their commitment to the key social justice issue of our time, and recognition that this is a critical step in overcoming the disadvantaged face by Indigenous communities.

We welcome this support and encourage the nation to get behind First Nations people to enable a voice in the decisions that impact their lives.

The Uluru Education Project, which BHP is committing funding towards, will be managed by a steering group that includes prominent Australians, Professor Fiona Stanley from Western Australia, Danny Gilbert of Gilbert + Tobin lawyers in Sydney and Indigenous Leaders including Professor Megan Davis and North Queensland Land Council director Terry O’Shane.

We look forward to the Uluru Education Project contributing to greater awareness in the Australian community of the Uluru Statement, and building support for a successful referendum.  BHP’s commitment of funding is a great demonstration of the good will and genuine support they have for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.



It is the voice of Traditional Owners that guides our direction. We are governed by the will of Cape York.


Cape York Land Council is a safe place where big ideas and powerful ambitions are driven by expertise and passion.


We were there from the beginning and we forged the human path to native title determination. We know where we’re going because we know where we’ve been.


The Cape York Land Council respects that all Traditional owners have autonomy and speak to their own lands.


The preservation and promotion of the traditions and cultures of Aboriginal people is a key driver for Land Council’s mission.


We are you. We too share the passion and pride of the people of Cape York and are dedicated to improving the lives of real people.


After a lengthy period of consultation on country with Traditional owners the Cape York Land Council have been given a very clear mandate on what success in this Native title space looks like:

  • Traditional owners want the return of their land, not the politics
  • Traditional owners must make their own decisions and speak for their country
  • Traditional owners want certainty and not confusion
  • Traditional owners don’t want this to take another quarter of a century. It’s time for the dispossession to end.

Any process that causes disruption or lacks unity will almost certainly delay the opportunity for this justice significantly.



Stronger Together

Native Title is an asset for Cape York’s First Nations people with potential to build livelihoods free from dependency. We will use it to build indigenous led business and enable our children to have jobs in our communities.

In supporting One Claim, we have the best chance for the native title determinations to be made efficiently and provide these opportunities for our people.

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