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BLOG 5: THE DAINTREE - JCU - Indigenous Environmental Management - April 2016

Posted by Craig Ward, April 2016 on

eternal endemism©


JCU - Indigenous Environmental Management

In April of this year, I was lucky enough to join in with the James Cook University EV3252 – Indigenous Environmental Management Field Trip. It was offered as a third-year subject and Post Grad/Masters subject. The outline is below:

This subject explores Indigenous people's role in environmental management in both Australia and across the world. Students obtain an introduction to core issues and concepts that reflect and access Indigenous perspectives on environmental management issues through an on-campus 4 day residential of lectures, workshops and a field trip, and an off-campus 8-week web-based self-study program inclusive of pre-recorded lectures and readings. The field trip will enable students to meet with traditional owners in Far North Queensland and take part in learning discussions and activities related to Indigenous perspectives and goals in environmental management of their ancestral lands. Students are subsequently guided towards resources to enable them to synthesise their new understandings and complete the assessment requirements (JCU 2016). 

The trip itself was wonderfully well balanced, we met at JabalbinaYalanji Aboriginal Corporation Office and heard about their work and the difficulties of negotiating native and Title and assisting Aboriginal people in returning to country.

Our Country has been divided up into land and sea, and into Green, Yellow and Pink zones, but we see our Country as one. An IPA will help us put it back together, through us planning for and managing our Country all together. It will help put together all of the different plans and projects that are happening on our jalun and bubu. Jalunji-Warra People, Shee, R. 2012

A visit to Mossman Gorge, where we met Manager Ben Pratt and Yalanji people for the Mossman Gorge Area, helped to set the scene further for our arrival into Cow Bay in the arvo where we considered the essence of the project. Below are notes and thoughts from the field trip. 

With the acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their culture, knowledge and tradition in recent legislation (Planning Bill 2015), there is an unprecedented opportunity for planning guidelines to reflect and be structured by these values (Harwood, 2016). The Eastern Kuku Yalanji (EKY) and Queensland government are seeking input into their plans for Cow Bay and the broader EKY native title claim with a possible outcome of a Land Trust Indigenous Environmental Management Plan (IEMP). It is expected this would become part of a statutory guideline that will facilitate a long-awaited return to country (Harwood, 2016).

Purpose and Overview of the IEMP

In 1996, the traditional owners of the broader Cow Bay region of the Daintree joined with other clans to form the EKY native title claim. Over the following 11 years, negotiations progressed slowly, but ultimately to a native title determination of 2007, which saw the establishment of JabalbinaYalanji Aboriginal Corporation (Jabaldina) as the registered Native Title Body Corporate and Land Trust. The EKY native title claim covers more than 30 blocks, and so the decision was made to prepare a Community Development Plan (CDP) for a Pink Zone (Aboriginal freehold-ALA 1991) pilot block as a guideline for all future CDPs. Across the region, there is a strong desire to come back to country, and so Eastern Kuku Yalanji traditional owners, Jabalbina and Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) have worked together to develop plans to guide Bama (Aboriginal person) in moving back to country. The Cow Bay (KabaKada) Pink block was chosen for the CDP pilot, and approximately 350 family clan members are associated with this 77ha beach-side, rainforest block, with the majority currently living off country.

“ I’d like to see family move back to country - to live” Jabalbina Staff Member Tuesday 19th April 2016

I came away from the field trip feeling that the challenges of effective environmental management and the preservation of biodiversity are many but any genuine solutions are sure to be found in holistic, thoughtful, considerate and co-operative approaches. Please visit the Jablabina website and lend your support in any way you can:

‘Biodiversity also incorporates human cultural diversity, which can be affected by the same drivers as biodiversity, and which has impacts on the diversity of genes, other species and ecosystems.’ (UNEP, 2007, p160)

The evidence of feral pigs in both Mossman Gorge and the Daintree is a serious concern. Pigs are bold and noticeable at this time of year. We have long failed to control their populations and the damage they do in National Parks and valuable wildlife habitat. Please do everything you can and at the very least report sightings and help improve the National database (see below)…