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| Conservation estate | Principles for parks | Non-Indigenous occupation | Indigenous dispossession |


"It is important to realise that as Indigenous people the environment and culture are one and the same, they co-exist and are not separate".

Melissa George, a Wulgurukaba woman and a Traditional Owner
of the Magnetic Island and Townsville areas

"Cultural heritage forms the very fabric of our society, our spirituality and our connection with our lands and our very existence. Our waters, our seaways, our skies, our airspace, they're all a part of the complete cycle of who we are and what we're about".

Bob Anderson, of the Queensland Indigenous Advisory Board


A proposal for an Indigenous Conservation Estate

From the Queensland Indigenous Working Group's

Working Draft for discussion and negotiation purposes

A summit of indigenous representatives from throughout Queensland was held in Brisbane in April 1999 to discuss the state of recognition of indigenous ownership and management of protected areas. Indigenous people have a deep interest in all protected areas within their traditional country and, while they acknowledge that existing national park land must continue to remain for national park purposes, ownership and management control must rest with the rightful indigenous owners.


Summit Preamble - April 1999

RECALLING that Aboriginal people have owned the land on which all national parks are located since time immemorial and continue to so own;

RECOGNISING that since the recognition of native title the creation of national parks is an unremedied appropriation of Aboriginal land;

NOTING that the Queensland Government desires to reform existing arrangements for accommodating Aboriginal rights and ownership of land including national park land;

FURTHER noting the extensive obligation of the Queensland Government to respect the rights and ownership of national parks by Aboriginal people under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld), the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 (Qld), the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth), equity and the common law, the International Covenant for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on Biodiversity;

CALLING on the Queensland Government to recognise, in negotiation, the position of Aboriginal owners as land owners and parties of equal status rather than relegating Aboriginal people to the position of 'stakeholders' or 'interest groups' and the imperative for a lasting commitment by Government to engaging Aboriginal people on this basis

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  • United Position

THAT the following principles have the united support of Aboriginal owner delegates and NTRBs attending the summit.

Process including adequate timetable and provision of resources

THAT we call on the Government to implement a fair and equitable process including a reasonable timetable to enable adequate State wide Aboriginal approval of new policy for Aboriginal rights in, and ownership of, national parks and to provide adequate resources for the process

AND THAT in negotiating a fair process we call on the Government to recognise and fulfil Australia's international convention obligations on the rights of Aboriginal people and the environment

  • Land Tenures and Lease Arrangements

THAT the Government recognise and accept Aboriginal ownership of national parks including all cultural and intellectual property throughout Queensland to enable the development of an Aboriginal conservation estate

AND THAT national parks will not diminish or extinguish any rights from Aboriginal ownership, nor prevent the exercise of such rights

AND THAT the Government provide secure land tenure directly to Aboriginal owner bodies, where Aboriginal land ownership exists, throughout the Queensland conservation estate

AND THAT we will never accept perpetual leases, of our country, back to the Government

AND THAT where Aboriginal land negotiations have determined that Aboriginal land is to be used for national park purposes, the Government will compensate Aboriginal owners for the loss of full use and enjoyment of Aboriginal land in the form of a negotiated annual rental payment or package

  • Aboriginal Management

THAT sole Aboriginal management, through a management structure acceptable to traditional owners for land in national parks is the primary goal and obligation of Government and that there should be flexibility of land management models as an outcome of negotiating the care, control and management of national park land

AND THAT this primary goal should be implemented through negotiation of ILUA or similar agreements

AND THAT the management of permits becomes an integral part of Aboriginal care, control and management of national park land

AND THAT in the setting of standards of Aboriginal management arrangements that no one model can diminish the opportunity for stronger arrangements with another Aboriginal group

AND THAT culturally appropriate management plans for Aboriginal national park land be developed by Aboriginal owners detailing how care, control and management will be implemented with appropriate resources from government for development and implementation of the management plan

  • Government commitment to national park management and recurrent funding for Aboriginal national parks

THAT the Government's past and current commitment to, and coordination of government agencies for, national park management is deplorable and that adequate recurrent funding for Aboriginal management services is provided as part of Aboriginal management agreements on Aboriginal national park land and efficient coordination of government agencies be ensured Access, living areas and exclusive use areas

THAT any new Aboriginal management arrangements provide unlimited access to Aboriginal land for traditional owners, living areas for Aboriginal owners and powers being vested in Aboriginal owners to control and police public access to areas of cultural sensitivity

AND THAT access for other commercial and research purposes shall be determined and controlled by the Aboriginal management structure Hunting and use of natural resources

THAT Aboriginal management arrangements on national park land include the right to hunt and use other natural resources, in accordance with Aboriginal tradition and Aboriginal management plans

  • Existing legislation and administration of legislation by Government agencies

THAT existing legislation dealing with Aboriginal rights in, and ownership of, national parks, and existing administration of that legislation is inadequate and requires amendment, replacement and reform, with the informed Aboriginal consent, to implement Aboriginal land tenure and management arrangements on national park land

  • Reform of administrative arrangements

THAT an independent government agency (appropriately resourced, managed by and governed by an Aboriginal majority) be created with responsibility for the implementation of new Aboriginal land tenure and management arrangements in consultation with traditional owners

  • Employment, training and capacity building

THAT adequate and culturally appropriate Aboriginal employment, Training and capacity packages, are essential to implementing Aboriginal care, control and management of Aboriginal national park land;

AND THAT Aboriginal positions and funding for those positions within national park or marine park structures should be negotiated directly with traditional owners

AND THAT Aboriginal management agencies already exist, those positions should be immediately transferred to the agencies to assist with capacity building to run national parks

  • Compensation

THAT the Government recognise that Aboriginal owners are entitled to compensation for all activity - past, present and future - on Aboriginal land affecting Aboriginal rights and we would seek negotiated outcomes rather than litigation

  • Recognition of traditional knowledge of country and traditional ownership

THAT the Government recognise that Aboriginal people are the true and only decision makers regarding the identification of Aboriginal traditional land owners and the location of our traditional estates

AND THAT Government has no role in the resolution of internal disputes amongst Aboriginal people

  • Intellectual and cultural property rights

THAT the Government accept and recognise that Aboriginal people hold Aboriginal scientific knowledge and own intellectual and cultural property concerning land, air, water and cultural resources

AND THAT traditional owners are the holders of true knowledge of country and that knowledge is of superior status to Western academic systems of knowledge

AND THAT bio-prospecting using any form of Aboriginal knowledge should only occur with the prior informed consent of the traditional owners of that knowledge

AND THAT Aboriginal intellectual property be protected by formal agreement in every Aboriginal management arrangement AND THAT traditional owners have the exclusive right to control the use of cultural knowledge in the interpretation and presentation of national parks

  • Cultural integrity

THAT the government recognise the landscape is integral to Aboriginal cultural values;

AND THAT the Government provide resources for culturally appropriate research to assist in the preservation and recovery of Aboriginal cultural knowledge

  • Commercial rights in national parks

THAT Aboriginal land ownership provides a right to gain an economic benefit from our land including, in accordance with Aboriginal management plans, the development of appropriate commercial enterprises on Aboriginal national parks

AND THAT, given the Government's promotion of the commercial use of national parks, traditional owners be guaranteed access to commercial opportunities, a first right of refusal and benefits

Conflict resolution process including Aboriginal process and independent arbitration

THAT a culturally appropriate conflict resolution process for disputes between government and traditional owners concerning national park management be created including, where appropriate, independent Aboriginal arbitrators to resolve conflicts which may arise in the management of Aboriginal national parks

  • Cultural Heritage

THAT all cultural heritage control and management is the exclusive right of Aboriginal owners and that ownership and management arrangements in relation to Indigenous cultural heritage be implemented in every Aboriginal national park

  • Audit of existing condition of national park land

THAT the government provide, prior to the settlement of new Aboriginal tenure and management arrangements an audit of the condition of natural values, fixed assets, national park regional administration, recurrent budgets and revenue generation of national park land in order for Aboriginal owners to be able to make adequate arrangements for the protection of these values and other assets

  • Process for new parks

THAT no new national parks be created in Queensland without the informed consent of traditional owners

AND THAT where new parks are created with the informed consent of traditional owners, the parks become a new category of Aboriginal Conservation Estate

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Non-indigenous occupation and indigenous dispossession

From the Indigenous Land Corporation

Regional Indigenous Land Strategy 1996 - 2001

Queensland Regional Area


Key factors in non-indigenous occupation

The following key factors are considered as having major historical and contemporary impact on the dispossession of indigenous people in the Queensland Regional Area -

Intense non-indigenous occupation of the south eastern corner, from the settlement of Redcliffe as a penal colony on the Brisbane River in September 1824 followed by the end of the convict era in 1839 and free settlement of the Moreton Bay district in 1842, has continued to the present.

Extensive exploitation of coastal lands for:

  • Sugar cane farms, other intensive cropping and cattle

  • Decentralised development and the growth of major provincial centres

  • Fishing, shipping and other marine activities

  • Tourism and recreation

  • National parks and other reserves

  • Extensive development of the cattle industry and the issuing of pastoral leases throughout most of Queensland west of the Great Dividing Range

  • Mining, railways, roads and related infrastructure development

  • Forestry and other natural resource exploitation in the eastern part

  • Development of major water resource projects

  • Large percentage of freehold title to land in central and southern regions

As a result of these factors, non-indigenous occupation since the early 1800's has had an impact on nearly all indigenous peoples in Queensland and has resulted in a low incidence of indigenous land ownership.

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Key factors in indigenous dispossession

The history of dispossession of indigenous peoples in Queensland is dominated by widespread conflict, warfare, and, in some cases, policies to "solve" the problems caused by the active and long-running resistance of indigenous peoples to the non-indigenous occupation of their lands. Large scale massacres and poisoning of indigenous people took place, which resulted in the destruction of whole groups or dispersal from their traditional country.

The dispossession of Aboriginal people in Queensland took place over a prolonged period, from the very first contact with non-Aboriginal colonists at Moreton Bay in the early nineteenth century to the forced removal of the Aboriginal community at Mapoon in 1963 in order to accommodate the exploitation of bauxite deposits, and arguably beyond then.

The reminiscences of one non-Aboriginal colonist published in 1904 quoted one of the dispossessed as saying:

"[We] were hunted from our ground, shot, poisoned and had our daughters sisters and wives taken from us ... They stole our ground where we used to get food, and when we got hungry and took a bit of flour or killed a bullock to eat, they shot us or poisoned us. All they give us now for our land is a blanket once a year."

A policy of systematic dislocation, dispossession and extermination by, among others, the Queensland Native Police, is well-documented and characterised the colonisation of Queensland until the latter part of the nineteenth century Progressively from the latter part of the nineteenth century, colonial government policies began to reflect the reality of economic life in Queensland's pastoral and sugar cane industries in which Aboriginal labour was indispensable during their establishment phases.

A system of dedicated Aboriginal "reserves" and church-run missions was developed as a mechanism for the convenient administration of Aboriginal policy and as a guarantee of the easier availability of a cheap - and in some cases, free - pool of labour for use in the development of the Queensland economy. The concentration of Aboriginal people into government regulated settlements required that large numbers of Aboriginal people be forcefully relocated from their traditional lands. The legislation, which authorised the confinement of individual Aboriginal people to reserves, also contained draconian provisions regulating virtually all aspects of Aboriginal life.

A responsible official could, for example, decide who should be removed from a reserve, who could enter a contract of employment and under what conditions, who could marry whom and whether Aboriginal children could remain with their families, what rights of private property ownership an individual Aboriginal person might enjoy and so on.

The historical legacy for Aboriginal people in Queensland is one of widespread dislocation from traditional lands, more pronounced in (but by no means confined to) the southern and eastern parts of the State. Throughout Queensland, traditional owners have in many places been a minority in their own country for several generations and traditional owners of one area may well have been relocated many hundreds of kilometres distant from their country for decades. In virtually all cases, contemporary economic and political marginalisation has attended dispossession on such a wide scale.

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Native title and protected areas project
E-mail: The project coordinator
Mail: QCC, PO Box 12046,
George Street Post Shop, Brisbane, 4003
Ph: 07 3221 0188 Fax: 07 3229 7992