The Butchulla people will be able to look after Country forever for future generations following a historic land handover ceremony held on 14 June in the K’gari (Fraser Island) World Heritage Area.
During the Central Station ceremony, the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation received freehold title to more than 22 hectares of land within an area where they already hold native title.
Butchulla woman Chantel Van Wamelen said the land transfer would empower the Butchulla people to revitalise cultural practices on Butchulla country. “The Butchulla people have three laws: what is good for the land must come first; do not touch anything that does not belong to you; and if you have plenty, you must share,” Ms Van Wamelen said. “We want to build ranger bases so our mob can better protect our land. We’re also hoping to run women’s and men’s camps to help Butchulla people connect with country.”
Resources Minister Stewart said land transfers like today’s could play a significant role in Queensland’s journey towards reconciliation. “I am honoured to return this site to its rightful owners,” Mr Stewart said. “Although this land transfer will not rectify past injustices, I hope it can provide future benefit to the Butchulla people. The Palaszczuk Government is proud to work with our First Australians, who continue to hold a deep connection to Country after more than 60,000 years.”
The Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation now holds inalienable freehold title to the two sites on either side of the island. Under Queensland laws introduced more than 30 years ago, the land cannot be sold and is held forever for future generations.
Mr Stewart said the Queensland Government had transferred more than 6.24 million hectares of land to Traditional Owners, reflecting the government’s genuine efforts toward reconciliation.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said land justice for the Butchulla people over K’gari and a place to practice culture on Country was vital to the state’s Path to Treaty.
“The truth is the more our First Nations people practice culture, revive language and keep traditions alive, the more it enriches all of us,’’ Mr Crawford said. “It helps to connect all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to country and a sense of place, and unites us in acknowledging a shared history that dates back as the world’s oldest living civilisation.”
Ms Van Wamelen said the island formed part of a Dreamtime story, where a white spirit named Princess K’gari was turned into the island by Rainbow Serpent Yindinjie. “Yindinjie and Princess K’gari helped create the seashores, mountain ranges, lakes and rivers around Hervey Bay. K’gari begged to stay there forever,” Ms Van Wamelen said. “Yindinjie told K’gari to lay down on the rocks in the sea, where she fell asleep. When she awoke, she became the island. “The Rainbow Serpent created lakes to be K’gari’s eyes, creeks and laughing waters to be her voice, and birds and animals to keep her company.”
For more information about land transfers, visit https://www.qld.gov.au/firstnations/environment-land-use-native-title/land-transfers.
Minister for Resources, Hon. Scott Stewart, Media Statement