Fourteen years ago (2005), Elders from 18 Rainforest Aboriginal tribal groups signed a Regional Agreement with the Wet Tropics Management Authority, the Queensland Government and the Australian Government. The Regional Agreement provides a framework for the involvement of Rainforest Aboriginal People in the management of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area.
Though some of the actions from the Regional Agreement were advanced, a lot had stagnated, and Rainforest Aboriginal People were frustrated by this lack of progress.
A resolution was passed by Rainforest Aboriginal People at a regional forum in 2017 to refresh the Regional Agreement. A Traditional Owner Leadership Group (TOLG) was formed to lead this process, with support from the North Queensland Land Council, the Authority and Terrain NRM. The TOLG includes Aboriginal directors from these organisations and the Aboriginal advisory members of the Authority.
Through many meetings and workshops since 2017, the TOLG has developed an early draft version of an Implementation Agreement to refresh the Regional Agreement with partners. Through regional forums, the TOLG has continued to check in with Rainforest Aboriginal People to test their ideas and seek further direction for this important work. A parallel negotiation process has also commenced with State and Commonwealth agencies.
The TOLG is planning to travel around the Wet Tropics in 2019-20 to meet with Rainforest Aboriginal People and clarify the specific regional projects and investments required to support and strengthen their on-going involvement in World Heritage Area management. The TOLG will also gauge the interest of Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples representative organisations to opt in to the Implementation Agreement following the negotiation phase. The intent of the draft Implementation Agreement is to add further value and strength to the significant role Rainforest Aboriginal People play in managing the Wet Tropics.
More information can be found at Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples’ Regional Forums, including outcome reports.
More information on the TOLG’s work is available in issue eight of the Rainforest Aboriginal News (RAN) and there will be more updates in future RANs.