Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

The Hon Vicky Darling

Minister for Environment

Protection for Cape York Peninsula

Media release
8 September 2011

The Gillard Government, in partnership with the Bligh Government, today announced $23 million in new funding to protect the rich environmental and cultural values of Cape York Peninsula.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said the new funds would allow the acquisition of high conservation value land for inclusion in Australia's national reserve system and support consultation with Indigenous communities to progress towards a potential future World Heritage nomination.

It will also support greater engagement and participation of Indigenous communities on the Cape in sustainable agricultural and natural resource management activities.

"Cape York Peninsula is a special place of world-class natural and cultural value - today's announcement demonstrates the Gillard Government's commitment to working with Indigenous communities to protect these values for future generations," Mr Burke said.

"We are working with the Queensland Government and Indigenous communities to identify and document the rich environmental and cultural values of Cape York Peninsula, while being mindful of the clear commitment that a World Heritage nomination would not proceed without the prior consent of Traditional Owners.

"Funding will be made available to support the voluntary acquisition of land containing values of National Environmental Significance that contribute to the overall integrity of the Cape York protected area estate through improved consolidation, connectivity and buffering."

Queensland Environment Minister Vicky Darling said that it was crucial that Indigenous people were given the opportunity to manage their own Country, both for conservation and appropriate economic development purposes.

"That is why Queensland has developed a special tenure type called National Park (Cape York Aboriginal Land) which is jointly owned and managed for conservation purposes by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Traditional Owners," Ms Darling said.

"When properties with high conservation values are acquired, a portion is handed back to Traditional Owners as Aboriginal land in recognition of their desire to return to homelands.

"Traditional Owners can decide to develop outstations for Traditional Owners, protect some areas as nature refuges and to pursue economic development in keeping with the environmental and cultural values of the land such as, carbon offset management or eco/cultural tourism."

Both the Gillard and Bligh governments are committed to supporting Traditional Owners to realise their aspirations to return to their homelands and pursue appropriate economic outcomes.

"The package includes funds to support Traditional Owners to reconnect with their Country and for natural resource management activities on the lands acquired under the program," Mr Burke said.

Today's announcement also includes $3 million to support engagement and consultation with the Indigenous people of Cape York towards a potential future World Heritage nomination and to fund the mapping of environmental and cultural values through comprehensive Country-based planning.

The Gillard Government also provides an annual allocation of $1.5 million to Cape York as part of Caring for our Country regional funding and $24.6 million for Working on Country, an Indigenous ranger program that employs around 100 Indigenous rangers across Cape York.