Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

State returns land to Aborigines

An Australian state is to return tens of thousands of acres of land to the original Aboriginal occupants

An Australian state is to return tens of thousands of acres of land to the original Aboriginal occupants, more than 30 years after it was turned into a national park, the state premier has said.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told the state parliament that more than 185,325 acres of land in far north-east Cape York Peninsula would be returned to the Wik Mungkan people.

"This decision puts an end to a shameful chapter in Queensland's indigenous history," Anna Bligh said.

"It changes the outcome of a long legal battle which saw the legitimate legal rights of indigenous people of Cape York circumvented."

The area, known as Archer Bend, lies within Mungkan Kandju National Park. In 1977 the state government declared the area a national park, thereby preventing Aboriginals or anyone else from buying land and establishing homes or businesses.

Queensland Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said the decision revokes the government's ownership of the area, allowing traditional owners to manage cultural and natural sites and establish businesses.

It was not clear whether there would be any restrictions on development in the region, which was once used for large-scale cattle grazing.

Aborigines, the original inhabitants of the Australian continent before white settlers arrived, are a minority of some 400,000 in a population of 21 million.

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