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Media release


17 September 2001

Summary: Joint Media Release of the Cape York Land Council, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, Peninsula Cattlemen's Association, Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society

An agreement signed today between traditional owners, pastoralists, the conservation movement and the State Government could become a model for reconciliation and land management across Australia, according to Peninsula Cattlemen's Association President John Fraser.

Mr Fraser described the signing of the Cape York Peninsula Land Use Heads of Agreement (HOA) in Cairns today as a "milestone not only for Cape York Peninsula but for Australia."

"I believe the agreements that come out of this will wind up being used as a model for reconciliation and land management across the country," he said.

Parties to the agreement - which aims to protect cultural heritage and environmental values while also providing for greater certainty and more effective management of the pastoral industry - said the agreement was a unique foundation on which to pursue new business and employment opportunities in areas like cultural and eco tourism.

Indigenous, pastoral industry and conservation movement representatives applauded the active participation of the State Government saying it would give great impetus to a process that started in 1996.

An important element of the agreement is to establish a mechanism, including a "Ministerial Implementation Committee," that will translate long held aspirations for Cape York Peninsula into action.

The signatories to the Cape York Peninsula Land Use Heads of Agreement are the Cape York Land Council, Peninsula Regional Council of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, Peninsula Cattlemen's Association, Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society, the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, and the Queensland Government.

Cape York Land Council Chairman, Allan Creek, described the HOA as "a great achievement and traditional owners look forward to working with pastoralists on Cape York Peninsula".

"A lot of us are still cattlemen, we have worked on stations all our lives. This agreement will give us a chance to prove that we can still do the job," Mr Creek said.

"Aboriginal people are pleased that people are getting together to talk about these things because our people have looked after this country for thousands of years," he said.

John Fraser said Aboriginal people had played a major role in the development of the cattle industry and he looked forward to a renewed role in the future.

"The more indigenous people come into the system, the more sustainable the industry becomes. There is huge potential for us to work together," he said.

Key conservation groups welcomed the agreement with The Wilderness Society Executive Director, Alec Marr, describing the HOA signing as "an historic moment that will accelerate the process of dealing with land tenure on Cape York and deliver excellent conservation outcomes and social justice to the traditional owners."

"This agreement puts Cape York on the map in terms of the broader Australian community because it will have a higher State Government priority and a lot more resources will be dedicated to it. The whole profile of Cape York will be raised dramatically both in Australia and overseas," Mr Marr said.

Australian Conservation Foundation Councillor, Dr Rosemary Hill, said the ACF strongly commended the initiative of the Premier Peter Beattie in adding the State of Queensland as a signatory to the HOA.

"We are particularly pleased because Cape York is an outstanding natural area in Australia, and probably globally, and there is a wonderful opportunity here to really protect those natural values," Dr Hill said.

"Australia is a unique continent in that we have the oldest culture in the world living here and one that has an incredible capacity in terms of managing natural values. So this agreement is bringing natural and cultural heritage together in something that has great synergy. The common good can really be promoted here - social and economic development together as well as protection of natural and cultural heritage values," she said.

Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation Executive Director, Gerhardt Pearson, also welcomed "the leadership shown by Premier Beattie" saying the HOA was a way "of protecting the beautiful environment of Cape York Peninsula while also allowing sensible development."

"In terms of Aboriginal people we see a big opportunity with the HOA to have our Native Title interests recognised through practical land use agreements - within the framework of the Native Title legislation," Mr Pearson said.


Cape York Land Council Chairman, Allan Creek. Phone: 0421 477 301

Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation Executive Director, Gerhardt Pearson. Phone: 0419 773 433

Peninsula Cattlemen's Association President, John Fraser. Phone: 0407 696 220

Australian Conservation Foundation Councillor, Rosemary Hill. Phone: 0408 938 745

The Wilderness Society National Campaign Director, Alec Marr. Phone: 0417 229 670

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