Welcome to 2022 – a year of unpredictability, but still with many opportunities for positive change.
It is interesting to reflect on how various issues connected to national parks evolve. One that has seen major change recently is the names and management of national parks reflecting their long connection to Indigenous peoples over thousands of years.
We have seen changes in the names of iconic and much loved national parks- for example the sand islands of south east Queensland. ‘Straddie’ (North Stradbroke Island), Moreton Island and Fraser Island are now known as Minjerribah, Mulgumpin and K’gari respectively.
The Butchulla people gathered to celebrate the renaming of Fraser Island to the K’gari World Heritage Area in September 2021. It won’t be long until these names are common parlance among Australians. I remember growing up referring to Ayers Rock and Katherine Gorge in Central Australia; very few people now would recognise, let alone use these names, with Uluru and Nitmiluk widely accepted.
The names of the national parks on these islands have also changed as follows:· Moreton Island National Park – Gheebelum Coonungai (‘Lightnings’ Playground’) National Park.
To date, 22 national parks in Cape York have been converted to jointly managed areas, totalling nearly 1.53 million hectares. This includes the iconic Daintree National Park (CYPAL).It will be interesting to see the progress and future changes in returning to the original Aboriginal names and joint management of national parks not just in Queensland, but across Australia.
I hope you continue to enjoy the experience and connection with nature in our unique national parks· North Stradbroke Island National Park – Naree Budjong Djara (‘My Mother Earth’) National Park Joint management plans with the State Government and local Aboriginal groups have been, or are in the process of being developed.
You may well ask what’s in a name – and why is a name-change so significant? Indigenous place names link Traditional Country to the history, culture and people that have been a part of the land for many thousands of years. Instead of Fraser Island being named after a woman (Eliza Fraser) spending only a few months on the island in 1836 after a shipwreck, the island now is known as K’gari – the name chosen by the Butchulla people as it is the sky spirit the island was created from. Aboriginal history of these areas dates back at least 25,000 years, so re-adoption of Indigenous place names signifies the history and culture that long pre-dates colonisation. Importantly, many Indigenous peoples regard this not as re-naming, but as re-claiming. This reaffirms and celebrates the rich history that is unique to Australia – we have the oldest living cultures in the world. Something to acknowledge, cherish and celebrate. It is entirely appropriate we recognise this in our national parks.
There has also been considerable progress in Cape York to return ownership and management to local Aboriginal Traditional Owners through changing the tenure of identified properties to Aboriginal freehold land. Existing national parks are also being converted to jointly managed parks as Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land (CYPAL), with Aboriginal freehold as the underlying tenure.