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World's Oldest Tropical Rainforest Will Be Handed Back To Aboriginal Owners

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World's Oldest Tropical Rainforest Will Be Handed Back To Aboriginal Owners

Ownership of the world's oldest tropical rainforest will be handed back to the Indigenous traditional owners after a historic deal was struck.

Queensland's Daintree Rainforest, Ngalba Bulal, Kalkajaka and Hope Islands national parks will once again be owned and preserved by the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people.

They struck a deal with the state government to manage the 160,108 hectares (395,467 acres) of land.

Chrissy Grant, a traditional owner and the incoming chair of the Wet Tropics Management Authority board, said this was a massive step forward in honouring First Nations people.

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"It's a big thing for Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, for us bama, which means people," she said. "Bama across the wet tropics have consistently lived within the rainforest.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

"That in itself is something that is pretty unique to the world heritage listing.

"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."

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The rainforest is home to 30 per cent of Australia's marsupial species and 20 per cent of its reptile species.

Experts estimate the Daintree Rainforest is around 180 million years old and the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people are very much connected to the land that was formally theirs.

It wasn't until 2007 that the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people were recognised as the traditional owners of the land.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy
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Fast forward 14 years and ownership of the huge amount of land is finally back where it once belonged.

Queensland's Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said: "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."

Chrissy Grant is now keen on working up a system that employs Eastern Kuku Yalanji people in vital roles to manage the rainforest and national parks.

She said: "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 [people] 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."

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It follows the Queensland government's recent decision to change Fraser Island to its traditional name K'Gari to respect the Indigenous owners.

To help dismantle racial injustice visit www.ladbible.com/unheard

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Australia

Stewart Perrie
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