The area of land is roughly the equivalent of 676,000 football fields, or the land size of Greater Brisbane, and has now officially been returned to the Gudang, or Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi, the Seven Rivers people.
The land comprises areas formerly known as Jardine River National Park, Denham Group National Park, part of Heathlands Reserve and Jardine River Reserve; and two offshore islands.
The historic event was marked with a ceremony conducted by the region’s Indigenous community and the Queensland government.
“It’s simple. Generations of Bama from this area know this land is their birthright,” Gerhardt Pearson, executive director of the Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, said.
“Today Queensland will recognise these lands as Atambaya, Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) and Gudang/Yadhaykenu.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who last month launched the state’s Path to Treaty, said the move would promote conservation in the region and give First Nations peoples a better say in managing their land.
“When you talk about acknowledging the past, when you talk about having a future together, this is a clear demonstration of government working with Traditional Owners to bring about this great outcome,” she said.
“Our Path to Treaty is about finding a place where we can face up to our shared history and be truthful about all of it – good and bad – and build a future together where we value, trust, and respect each other.”
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said today was “a rewrite of the future”.
“We are setting the path for a brighter and newer future for all people in Queensland.”
The land will be granted to the Ipima Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and the Atambaya Aboriginal Corporation on behalf of the Traditional Owners.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said members of the communities had waited generations to get their land back.
“It marks the government returning more than 4.3 million hectares to Traditional Owners on Cape York – equivalent to size of the country of Switzerland,” she said.
“This is about land justice.
“The historic occasion will see the Gudang/ Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples take ownership of significant tracts of their homelands.”