Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Working together to protect the Daintree

Media release
8 May 2013

Environment Minister Tony Burke today joined traditional owners at Queensland's Cape Tribulation to dedicate 70,000 hectares of Australia's famous Wet Tropics rainforest as the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Protected Area.

Mr Burke said the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Protected Area is a place where ancient rainforest nestles between soaring coastal mountains and where enormous green valleys lead down to a stunning coastline and sea brimming with plant and animal life.

"By dedicating their country as the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Protected Area, the Jalunji-Warra and Kuku Nyungkal clans are making a solemn commitment," Mr Burke said.

"They are reaffirming their traditional responsibility to care for this country. They're promising to work with other clans and management authorities to make sure future generations will be able to walk under the Daintree's awe-inspiring rainforest canopy just as I did this morning.

"The wet rainforests that surrounded us contain more than half the world's primitive flowering plant families. You'll find cassowary and tree-climbing kangaroos in this country. Head out from Cape Tribulation to the sea and you'll find mangroves and mudflats, fringing reefs and seagrass beds supporting turtles, fish and dugong.

"From traditional owners Chrissy Grant and Robyn Ballafquih, I heard stories of this country's sacred sites, of the Dreaming and Rainbow Serpent.

"I also heard stories of the hard work of Indigenous rangers to manage weeds and feral pests and of their desire to use this dedication as a way forward to jobs, training and sustainable economic development.

"I too have been passionate about this country ever since the campaign to save the Daintree propelled me into political life.

"I see today's dedication as a great step forward. By using traditional knowledge alongside modern science, by having world-class management plans in place, we are doing our best to look after this crucial part of our country for future generations."

Traditional owner and CEO of the Jalbalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation Robyn Ballafquih said the Elders had been fighting for many years to get back more control over their land and sea.

"In 2007 we got some land back and our native title acknowledged," Ms Ballafquih said.

"But now through our Eastern Kuku Yalanji IPA our Bama (people) will finally have the capacity to take a lead role again in making decisions about our country and managing it again like our old people did before."

As an Indigenous Protected Area, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji has undergone a detailed indigenous led planning process and it is now added to the national reserve system. This means they are able to access funding through Working On Country for indigenous rangers.