A PARCEL of land bigger than Brisbane City has been returned to its traditional owners more than 30 years after a failed Bjelke-era attempt to build a space port on Cape York.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Mark Furner yesterday transferred 160,730ha of land, known as Bromley, back to the Wuthathi, Kuuku Ya’u and Northern Kaanju people.
“When the Bjelke-Peterson government announced plans in 1986, they didn’t bother to consult the traditional owners, they just took the land. It was wrong,” he said.
More than 100 members of the Cape York community attended a ceremony at the Cairns Convention Centre to witness the signing of the land transfer agreement.
Cape York Land Council chairman Richard Ahmat said it was a “magnificent day for blackfellas” but called for a more streamlined system for returning land to traditional owners.
“It shouldn’t take that long. It took 22 years to get a determination. Why?” he said.
“We know where our country is.
Every single person knows that. There’s just got to be some sort of mechanism where we can achieve quicker outcomes.”
Mr Ahmat said the announcement was a credit to decades of hard work by Aboriginal people. “We have to fight hard for every single grain of our country so we can stand on it again,” he said.
The Cape York Space Agency was billed as being the world’s first commercial space port, with the location chosen due to its proximity to the equator. The project was abandoned before any rockets were launched.
Bromley Aboriginal Corporation chairman Johnson Chippendale said elders had wanted to get their land back for more than 30 years.
“We’ve had some really good people on the negotiation team and we’re pretty pleased with the deal,” he said.