The Daintree Was Formally Handed Back To Indigenous Owners In A Historic Agreement

More than 160,000 hectares of land was returned to traditional custodians.


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The Daintree has been returned to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people in Queensland in a historic ceremony on Wednesday. The world’s oldest living rainforest saw official ownership once again bestowed to traditional custodians.

In the co-management agreement with the state government, the rainforest, as well as Hope Islands, Kalkajaka, and Ngalba Bulal national parks make up over 160,000 hectares of land formally recognised as ancestral ground.

“This is where we belong on country, on bubu — on land,” Yalanji woman Mary-Anne Port told the ABC. “All our ancestors called us back to home. I broke down. to get it all back in a battle that we’ve lost so many — young and old — that fought for country, and now it’s all back.”

While a portion of the land has been already recognised under native title since 2007, the new development will see more oversight, input, involvement, and healing for First Nations communities.

In 1988, UNESCO listed the Daintree as a World Heritage site for its biodiversity, including rare animals like the waterfall frog, tube-nosed insectivorous bat, southern cassowary, and Bennett’s tree kangaroo. Indigenous people were shut out of the consultation process, with the Yalanji people reportedly finding out about the Hawke Government’s nomination via a local newspaper at the time. Back then, the state was pushing for mass logging on behalf of the timber industry as well.

“It’s an opportunity to work our way up … we will be looking at long-term gains out of this, but we need to work our way up to get our people trained up confident,” incoming chair of the Wet Tropics Management Authority board, and Eastern Kuku Yalanji woman Chrissy Grant said to the Guardian.