World Heritage Bid For Cape York Peninsula


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In partnership with Cape York Traditional Owner groups, the Australian and Queensland Labor Governments have nominated the Cultural Landscapes of Cape York Peninsula to Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Located across a vast region of more than 120,000 square kilometres on the north-east of Australia, Cape York Peninsula is shaped by a rich complex natural environment and tens of thousands of years of Traditional Owner beliefs, customs and practices that are living today.

Rock art can be found across Cape York Peninsula, including Quinkan Country which detail the beliefs, practices and connection to Country of Traditional Owners for millennia. The paintings include spirit beings, men and women, dingos, macropods, echidnas, birds, reptiles, fish, tracks, yams.

The rich, complex cultural landscapes are covered with exceptional areas of savanna, remnant rainforest, wetlands containing unique river systems, that have been shaped by the presence of ancestral creation beings since the beginning of time.

The Peninsula is home to 18.5 per cent of Australian plant species, despite only being 3 per cent of continental landmass. The landscapes are also home to over 300 threatened species including the green sawfish, Cape York rock wallaby, and southern cassowary.

The Australian and Queensland Labor governments will continue to work alongside Traditional Owner groups and the Cape York community throughout the World Heritage nomination process.

Areas included in the Tentative List submission are:

  1. Alwal National Park (CYPAL)
  2. KULLA (McIlwraith Range) National Park (CYPAL)
  3. Ma’alpiku (Restoration Island) National Park (CYPAL)
  4. Olkola National Park (CYPAL)
  5. Oyala Thumotang National Park (CYPAL)
  6. Quinkan Country
  7. Wuthathi (Shelburne Bay) National Park (CYPAL)

Tentative Listing is the first step in the years long World Heritage nomination process.

Australian properties already on the World Heritage List include the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, K’gari (Fraser Island), Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the Wet Tropics of Queensland, and the Great Barrier Reef.

As stated by the Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek:

“Cape York is a special place, combining natural beauty and deep cultural history. With the support of Traditional Owners, I want to see it added to the World Heritage List to recognise it alongside our other precious places like the Great Barrier Reef.

“Sitting at our doorstep to the north, Cape York is an important site in our national story. It’s home to spectacular landscapes, important places, and stories that span generations. This is a special part of Australia.

“A World Heritage listing would give the Cape better protection so it can continue to be visited and enjoyed by our kids and grandkids.

“Tourists are attracted to world heritage areas so this listing has fantastic economic potential for Queensland too.”

As stated by Queensland Premier Steven Miles:

“This is monumental. It is the first step towards Queensland’s incredible Cape York Peninsula being formally recognised on the World Heritage list.

Australia is home to just 20 World Heritage Areas – and five of those are right here in Queensland.

“I want iconic places like the Cape to be protected for future generations to love and look after including my kids.

“Our state is rich in natural, culturally significant locations that need our protection, like the Cape, and it’s only Labor Governments that will protect it.

As stated by Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, the Hon Leanne Linard MP:

“The tentative listing of Cape York Peninsula follows an extensive period of consultation and information gathering across the community and today we celebrate reaching this milestone with stakeholders.

“As part of this tentative listing process, I have been fortunate to visit some very special locations on Cape York Peninsula and see important cultural and natural sites through the eyes of the traditional owners, who have lived on these lands for tens-of-thousands of years, and listened to their stories.

“The successful listing provides the opportunity for the Queensland and Australian governments to extend consultation and analysis of the Cape’s natural and cultural values by working with all stakeholders over the next few years.

“Both levels of government have always said a full World Heritage nomination would only proceed with the full, prior and informed consent of Traditional Owners and broader consultation with community. No land will be included without property owners’ consent. I’m proud that the first step in this process has now been achieved.

“I appreciate the work of so many involved in reaching this milestone and am happy to announce that the Queensland Government has committed another $2.4M over the next two years to continue engagement and support Traditional Owners to explore values on their Country.”

As put by State Member for Cook Cynthia Lui:

“Protecting the Cape is hugely important to me, to my community and to our government.

“Now, we’re one step closer to having our beautiful region recognised on the World Heritage List.

“This is a proud day for me and for the people I represent.”

As stated by Traditional Owners:

Allan Creek, Southern Kaantju:

“I’m a Southern Kaantju elder through a straight line from my father, his father and his father. Me and most of my family live on our Country and we look after it. I was involved in the World Heritage talks and the meetings. We’ve been thinking about it for years. I reckon World Heritage will be good because it gives us more chance to look after the country how we need to look after it, forever. So we don’t have to bend this way and that way every time the government change their mind or a big company tells us what we need to do.”

William Pratt, Ayapathu:

“It is all new ground with this World Heritage Tentative Listing, but as for me, it would be a new concept to learn as we go on this journey and see what benefits can come out of it for the Traditional Owners.”

Alwyn Lyall, Possum & Kuku Warra:

“I welcome the World Heritage Tentative Listing of my ancestors country and existence. Cultural heritage is of great importance to me, Australia and future generations. We welcome the opportunity to be heard.”

Gregory Pascoe, Kuuku Ya’u:

“We are proud of our inclusion on the World Heritage Tentative List. Our cultural practices are tied to our traditional Country and protecting this means that our traditions, stories, and connection to the land can remain strong for future generations. Ma’alpiku Island National Park (CYPAL) is a living cultural landscape for the Kuuku Ya’u people and it holds both contemporary and traditional significance. We have done a lot of thinking and planning to get to this step and we are very happy.”

Johnson Chippendale, Wuthathi Elder:

“Wuthathi people have a long history of conservation, protection and caring for Country, our Country, Wuthathi, for 60,000 years before colonisation.

“Our fight in the early 80s about sand mining in Shelburne Bay start or the focus of conservation movement in Cape York.

“We have legislated prohibition for mining, now moving forward, looking at the Tentative Listing procedure and the World Heritage listing on our icon dunes and lakes…sand dunes World Heritage listing on our Country, which would give them the ultimate protection for future generations to come.

“This is only the Tentative Listing, they will be in deep consultation with all our Wuthathi people, led by Wuthathi people with the state’s support, following our protocol and guidelines to ensure protection and economic wealth and management of resource for our people.

“And would like to thank the Minister, Premier and the Taskforce for engaging Wuthathi Directors, people, not overarching entity.

“Wuthathi people talk for Wuthathi Country and make decision for Wuthathi Country, no one else.”

/Public Release. View in full here.