Six years ago, on 9 November 2012, the Australian Government formally recognised the Indigenous heritage values of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, incorporating these values into the Area’s National Heritage Listing. This was a significant action from the Regional Agreement and acknowledges that Rainforest Aboriginal heritage is unique to the Wet Tropics and is a remarkable and continuous Indigenous connection with a tropical rainforest environment.
The Wet Tropics is a living cultural landscape. It is the only place in Australia where Aboriginal people have permanently inhabited a tropical rainforest environment, and have continuously done so for millennia.
Rainforest Aboriginal people continue to maintain their connection to country, which is crucial to their evolving cultural identity. As well as providing food, shelter and medicine, the ancient forests of the Wet Tropics are essential to traditional identity, spirituality and social order.
Rainforest Aboriginal peoples’ use and management of the landscape has shaped the Wet Tropics region, and they continue to look after country through land and sea ranger programs, Indigenous Protected Areas, the Regional Agreement for cooperative management of the World Heritage Area, and Cooperative Management Agreements.
Today there are at least 20 tribal groups, 120 clans and 8 language groups (over 20,000 people) with ongoing traditional connections to land in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Empowering Rainforest Aboriginal people as the traditional custodians of the Area’s natural and cultural values is an important part of protecting these assets now and for future generations.