# 8

February 2005


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Last Chance to save Queensland's Wild Rivers

Across the remote north and west of Queensland are found some of the world's last great tropical wild rivers. Amazingly, despite the irreversible changes brought about over the last 200 years, Queensland remains home to some of the nation's most majestic wild rivers. Rivers still flow freely throughout Cape York Peninsula, the Gulf of Carpentaria and the western Channel Country, where entire catchments remain largely intact.

In February 2004 the Queensland Government announced its intention to protect Queensland's wild rivers through the creation of a new 'Wild Rivers Act'. Under the state government's plan, nineteen rivers have been proposed for protection.

While an impressive start, there are many more Wild Rivers in Queensland that deserve protection under the Wild Rivers Act.

The need to protect all of Queensland's wild rivers is compelling. With land and water resources becoming scarcer in southern Australia, the threats to these rivers are increasing as industries look northwards to expand and develop.

This is the last chance to save all of Queensland's Wild Rivers.



Indigenous rights and interests in Wild Rivers in Queensland

Protection of wild rivers must include recognition of Aboriginal title and the active participation of Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities.

A new Wild Rivers Act offers a decisive opportunity to consider Indigenous peoples' interests in the conservation of land and waters in Queensland. It is a chance to prevent the impacts that have devastated so many of Australia's once great rivers, while reflecting the inter-relationship between indigenous environmental, spiritual and cultural values.

Indigenous Traditional Owners assert their right to be actively involved at all levels in the management of natural and cultural values throughout their traditional lands. In response, conservationists acknowledge that the past exclusion of Traditional Owners from decision-making and control in relation to land use and natural resource management was inequitable. In addition, it was not in the best interests of the Australian environment and its diverse species.

Indigenous knowledge is an important source in understanding the environmental and heritage values of wild rivers. Reducing the health and environmental values of a river system also erodes cultural associations, leading to loss of connection to country and the natural world. This undermines the basis of Indigenous traditional ownership and the maintenance and transmission of ecological and cultural knowledge through the generations.

Today, conservation science and Indigenous ecological knowledge need to be brought together to form the conservation strategies that guide the work of environmental managers, landholders and conservation agencies.

Principles of natural and cultural conservation should also define the type and direction of economic activity in and around wild rivers. This is not to ignore the practical issues associated with meeting material needs and community development. It is about investing in opportunities to build a new economy - a 'conservation economy' - to achieve lasting environmental protection and economic inclusion, especially for those living in Queensland's more remote and largely intact landscapes.
The challenge now is to resolve the issues of tenure highlighted by land rights claims and native title, find the appropriate ways to protect and manage rivers into the future, and drive forward the necessary legal reform.

We are clear in our advocacy that the Government should take the opportunity with this proposed legislation to introduce a new approach to Indigenous rights in conservation in Queensland - one based on recognition of Aboriginal title and the active participation of Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities.

Caring for Queensland's Wild Rivers: Indigenous rights and interests in the proposed Wild Rivers Act - a Native Title and Protected Areas Discussion Paper - PDF (170kb)

For more on the campaign to protect Queensland's Wild Rivers, see the campaign web site -




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