Rainforest Country Returned to Traditional Owners

Samantha Morris / Guest Writer

SIX ecologically and Culturally significant rainforest blocks, located in the heart of the Daintree Lowlands have been returned to their rightful owners, the Kuku Yalanji people. 

Covered in ancient rainforest vegetation and critical habitat for endangered species, the blocks are now held in the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and Land Trust as a result of a unique Cultural partnership.

The blocks were purchased by Rainforest 4 Foundation over the past two years.

Kelvin Davies, CEO of Rainforest 4 Foundation celebrates with Lyn Johnson, Chair of the Board for the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation

Kelvin Davies is the CEO of Rainforest 4 Foundation and he said the blocks had been identified as priorities for conservation. 

“Each of these blocks has undergone a thorough assessment to be identified as a high priority for environmental conservation and Cultural outcomes,” he said, adding that their purchase is a result of a unique partnership between Rainforest 4 Foundation, fellow non-profit HalfCut, and the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation.

It was those three organisations, and their guests who gathered recently in the Daintree to recognise and celebrate the milestone achievement. 

Lyn Johnson, Chair of the Board for the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation told media present at the event that the handover “was an awesome day”. 

“We are building and working with Rainforest 4 Foundation and HalfCut and looking forward to moving with strong foundations into the future,” Ms Johnson said.

Buyback itself isn’t unique in the Daintree, but this partnership approach is. Rainforest 4 Foundation activates its Australian and international donors to raise funds for property purchases before handing over the titles. Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation then works with the Queensland Government to have the properties added to the Daintree National Park estate and jointly managed as Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land.

Through the outcomes of the partnership Aboriginal people are not only seen as Traditional Owners, but they also once again become the actual owners.

The Queensland Government also provides funding directly to the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation to enable Jabalbina Rangers to co-manage the Daintree National Park and this will include other properties acquired through the partnership.

“This really is a win-win as the rainforest and its conservation values are protected forever and ownership and management of the land returns to Kuku Yalanji,” Mr Davies said.

“This is the land of the Kuku Yalanji people, and the partnership is based on Traditional Owners making decisions on what is best for them.”

“We are doing things “proper way”, and nothing happens without consultation with and approval of the Elders responsible for the land to be purchased.”

“We are honouring the process of Traditional Owners holding the title deeds, rather than us, and of Traditional Owners managing the conservation practices on that land,” he said.

While the titles for six blocks have been handed over, there’s plenty more in the pipeline with the organisations aiming to purchase one property every two months. Rainforest 4 Foundation’s acquisition strategy has identified more than 200 blocks as priorities for purchase. 

“We already have two more blocks that have been purchased this year and these properties will also be transferred to the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and Land Trust as management agreements are documented.”

“These blocks should never have been subdivided and sold, but they were, so the solution is more land buyback,” he said. 

The six properties now held in the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and Land Trust on behalf of Kuku Yalanji people are:

  • Lot 107 Buchanan Creek Road, Cow Bay
  • Lot 2 Thornton peak Drive, Forest Creek
  • Lot 390 Maple Road, Cow Bay
  • Lot 124 Quandong Road, Cow Bay
  • Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road, Cow Bay
  • Lot 305 Cypress Road, Cow Bay

Rainforest 4 Foundation’s Kelvin Davies said the project demonstrated how much support there is for protecting the Daintree. 

“These outcomes are the result of everyday people donating money for buyback.”

“We can’t always wait for governments to do the right thing.”

“We’re excited about growing our impact and building on our partnership with HalfCut and Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation. Together we will continue to secure priority blocks and return them to Kuku Yalanji people,” he said.