June 29, 2022

When Indigenous People Retake Land

The Daintree rainforest, located in Far North Queensland, Australia, was handed back to the Aboriginal traditional owners on Tuesday. This is a significant event for not only this area but also indigenous people across the country as it marks the first time that an Indigenous Land Trust has been successfully created.

The Daintree rainforest is the oldest in the world, estimated at around 135 million years old. It includes rare species of plants and animals which are found nowhere else on earth, including the largest Pteradactyl or ‘flying dinosaur’ ever discovered. Containing over 6,000 plant species, 1,500 types of fungi and countless varieties of wildlife, the Daintree is a global environmental treasure.

It was originally known as Kombumerri Country and has been occupied for over 40,000 years by the local Aboriginal people who have a deep spiritual connection to this area. They also fought its protection from being logged when it was handed over in 1981 to the Australian Government, in one of Australia’s first Indigenous Land Claims.

But in 2007 the Government wanted to make changes to how it was managed, proposing to allow partial logging under the guise of sustainable forestry. This proposal created an uproar amongst conservationists and climate scientists who warned that increased logging would compromise their existing protection.

As negotiations broke down, the Daintree National Park (which is located adjacent to the rainforest) was given World Heritage status by UNESCO, citing concerns about logging plans. This angered the State Government who threatened UNESCO with having its membership suspended.

Fortunately, through many years of negotiations between Traditional owners and conservationists, an agreement has been reached that will protect both Indigenous rights and Australia’s natural treasures. It is hoped that other Indigenous Land Claims will follow, allowing Australia’s Indigenous people to continue their custodianship of the land.

The Daintree Rainforest is located in far north Queensland and stretches from just north of Port Douglas all the way up to Cooktown. The area was originally known as Kombumerri country, but was handed over to the Australian Government in 1981. In 2007 they proposed to allow logging inside the Daintree, which sparked a public outcry and a threat of suspension from UNESCO by the government. Eventually through many years of negotiations between traditional owners and conservationists, an agreement was reached that will protect both Indigenous rights and Australia’s natural treasures.

The Daintree National Park (adjacent to the rainforest) was given World Heritage status by UNESCO, citing concerns about logging plans. This angered the state government who threatened UNESCO with having its membership suspended. Eventually through many years of negotiations between traditional owners and conservationists, an agreement was reached that will protect both Indigenous rights and Australia’s natural treasures.