Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Curtis Pitt, says Premier Campbell Newman should be careful not try to rewrite history when handing over former National Park land on Cape York to traditional owners.
“I hope Mr Newman is faithful to history about the hand-back of this land and, in particular, I hope he rightly criticises his political hero Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen for the small-minded and vindictive role he played in this 35-year saga,” Mr Pitt said.
He said the return to the Wik Mungkan people of more than 75,500 hectares of the Mungkan Kandju National Park near Coen was negotiated by the former State Government and announced in October 2010.
“These lengthy and complex negotiations helped right a wrong inflicted 35 years ago by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen,” Mr Pitt said.
“It was the Bjelke-Petersen government that blocked the purchase of the then leasehold land by Wik stockman, the late John Koowarta, for his people.
“The government of the day declared the land a National Park, sparking a lengthy legal battle. It was not until 2010 — more than 20 years after John Koowarta’s death — that the former State Government resolved to hand back the part of the Mungkan Kandju National Park known as Archer Bend.
“Local indigenous peoples agreed that the bulk of the National Park land, more than 381,000 hectares, would remain part of the Mungkan Kandju National Park because of its high conservation values.
“To achieve that aim, the former state Labor Government worked with Indigenous elders, the Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, the Cape York Land Council, and conservation groups.
“It was not possible to arrange a handover ceremony before the March state election, and I didn’t receive an invitation to attend tomorrow’s handover so I won’t be able to attend.
“I simply ask Mr Newman to tell the truth about this land out of respect for the Indigenous people of Cape York who fought long and hard to secure the outcome they have achieved,” Mr Pitt said.