Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy The Honourable Dr Anthony Lynham
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said the significance of the decision and the importance of the land culturally, historically and environmentally could not be understated.
“Decades ago, the native title of the First Nations people of the Western Cape was not recognised or even acknowledged,’’ Ms Lui said.
“Returning this pristine and beautiful pocket of Cape York to its traditional owners fulfils the Government’s promise that was made as part of the Western Cape Communities Co-Existence Indigenous Land Use Agreement in 2001 – to surrender and transfer the land back to its Traditional Owners once it was no longer required for mining.
“The Mokwiri Aboriginal Corporation hold native title over the land, after being nominated by and representing six language affiliated groups described as the Yupungathi, Tjungundji, Taepadhighi, Mbakwithi, Thankakwithi and Anathangay.’’
Deputy Chair of the Mokwiri Aboriginal Corporation Charles Budby said the move had been a long time coming, but after 60 long years, it signalled a monumental decision for the lands traditional owners.
“This decision could not have come at a better time for the families we represent, we hope this is just the first of many instances in which beloved and sacred lands are handed back to their traditional owners,” Mr Budby said.
“Our people have been here forever and a day but it’s a matter of keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of society, understanding environmental changes and how to manage that land in a sustainable way so that it’s there for our young ones and into the future.
“Our immediate families have always interacted with that land, not just culturally but responsibly as family estates - these are the lands that we have built our stories and culture around.
“To us, the handing back of this land means it’s now our responsibility once more to take care of it - it affords us an opportunity to reconnect with the country, but more importantly, to carry on our culture and way of life into the future,” Mr Budby said.
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham thanked the traditional owners and the Mokwiri Aboriginal Corporation for its tireless efforts in bringing this formal recognition.
“This is further evidence of the government’s ongoing commitment to recognising the rights, history and intricate culture of our First Nations People’s and the deep connection they hold to the land and to their elders who walked it before them,” Dr Lynham said.
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