Cultural re-generation in Cape York Peninsula

21 May 2010 | News story

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Wuthathi Land Trust have secured funding from The Christensen Fund to undertake an Indigenous cultural re-generation project on Cape York Peninsula, Australia.

The Wuthathi (pronounced Woot-tar-tee ) people are the Traditional Owners of a stunning area in remote Cape York Peninsula in northern Australia.

The grant from the US based Christensen Fund will enable Wuthathi Traditional Owners to undertake two return to country trips to their traditional lands near Shelburne Bay (see map and photos).

A key aim of the funding is to return back to country and pass cultural knowledge on to younger generations of Wutahthi. Shelburne Bay is remote and meetings on country are a major challenge for Wuthathi people, many of who now live in other parts of Australia. So the chance to meet on country is a welcome opportunity.

Wuthathi Land Trust Spokesperson Ray Wallis explains, “Wuthathi people have long wanted to return to country and engage our younger people in our cultural practices. This funding will allow us to do this. But its not just about passing on our cultural legacy, we see it also as an exercise to also go forward and start building a sustainable future that is founded on culture and conservation”.

ACF spokesperson and CEESP member Justin McCaul says Wuthathi and ACF share a belief in the viability of a ‘culture and conservation economy'. “The concept of a culture and conservation economy is one that ACF has adopted from Ecotrust Canada. It is about creating economic opportunities that sustains Indigenous culture and does not degrade the natural environment. Both Wuthathi Land Trust and ACF want to demonstrate that culture and conservation can be the underlying foundation for a new type of economy that is about jobs and development, but equally, about the environment and Indigenous knowledge. We believe this partnership with Wuthathi people will be an exciting one that allows both ACF and Wuthathi to pursue this goal and create an example of the culture and conservation economy in action” said Mr McCaul.

Wuthathi and ACF plan to produce an integrated conservation strategy that joins traditional approaches to monitoring environmental health with western science; and a land management plan that can be used to guide environmentally and culturally sustainable economic development.

The funding comes at an opportune time as Wuthathi are close to finalising negotiations on their Native Title claim, and negotiations with the Queensland Government to create a jointly managed national park over some of the Wuthathi's traditional lands.

The environmental and conservation significance of Shelburne Bay has been widely documented over the past 30 years and is one of Australia's longest standing national park proposals.
Contact information:

Justin McCaul
Communications Coordinator
Northern Australia program
Australian Conservation Foundation