The 2021 review of the SEQ NRM Plan has reinforced the guiding principle that all lands and other natural assets in the region form traditional Aboriginal landscapes and are maintained by various natural resource managers.
The targets in the SEQ NRM Plan are based on the fact that South East Queensland was a vastly different place before non-Aboriginal settlement commenced in 1824 and that it cannot return to this pre-colonial state. Although shaped by human occupants for tens of thousands of years prior to 1824, the region’s lands, waters, atmosphere and biodiversity were substantially unaffected by the impacts of development. Non- Aboriginal settlement has had significant impacts.
The intervening period of settlement and dispossession has severely disrupted First People’s kinship networks and connection to Country. First Nation traditional governance based on a relationist world view has been replaced by a market driven paradigm facilitated by multiple layers of regulation and governance.
First Nations’ knowledge and science which is at the core of caring for country remains strong and tangible. First Nation science continues to become better understood once again in the modern world.
The Goori–Murri Nation Traditional Owner groups of SEQ collectively identify themselves as the Goori–Murri Nation. This Nation comprises several autonomous communities (nations) that have shared and distinct languages, cultural practices, Songlines and Dreamings. Since time immemorial, Traditional Owners have cared for Country, and Country has cared for them.
The statutory regional plan for Southeast Queensland, ShapingSEQ acknowledges that the SEQ of today is a changed place, where traditional country is shared. However, Traditional Owners have an ongoing and unique connection to their ancestral lands and have responsibilities to the land and sea under their traditional law and customs. Country continues to have a role in the spiritual, social and economic future of Traditional Owners.
ShapingSEQ also acknowledges this spiritual and physical connection with Country and pledges to engage Traditional Owners in maintaining and enhancing the health of Goori–Murri Nation and the wellbeing of Traditional Owners. ShapingSEQ states that cultural landscapes overlap with many other values in the region and are recognised for a variety of reasons. The example of the Glass House Mountains is given as an iconic set of physical elements in SEQ that are on the National Heritage Register and also hold great meaning for Traditional Owners as part of creation or Dreamtime Stories. Many roads, such as Old Gympie Road, follow ancient pathways that connected the Goori–Murri Nation at times of celebration such as the Bunya Festival.
The Queensland Government recognises Traditional Owners who have been granted Native Title over land and sea Country and their active role in the ongoing management of cultural resources for the important role they play in the social, spiritual and economic future of these communities. The Queensland Government also recognises that current and future Native Title determinations provide the opportunity to work with Traditional Owners to maintain and enhance the health of SEQ land and sea Country.
Map of Traditional Owner Groups in SEQ
About 40% of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population live in SEQ.
As with other urban/peri-urban regions in south-eastern Australia, Southeast Queensland (SEQ) contains a large heterogeneous Indigenous population that is comprised of individuals and families drawn from communities based across Australia. They consist of those who identify as descendants of the original inhabitants of the region (Aboriginal Traditional Owners) and those who have moved to the region and made it their home (historical and contemporary residents). With the increasing urbanisation of Indigenous peoples, it is a region with a steadily growing Aboriginal population.
The evidence emerging from research clearly demonstrates that Aboriginal people’s consideration of the future is significantly influenced and dominated by economic aspirations which are seen as fundamental survival strategies for their communities. Many other initiatives can be linked and / or run in parallel with natural resource management initiatives which can start to address some long standing socio-economic issues and the capacity of Traditional Owners to be involved in NRM.
The distinction between SEQ specific and non SEQ Traditional Owners is an important one particularly for Indigenous engagement for natural resource management. It requires different purposes, approaches and methods in the engagement with the two different groups of Indigenous People.
- Therefore the following generic attributes of SEQ Indigenous groups have been used in the development of engagement initiatives:
1. In the SEQ context, Indigenous engagement will be with urban and peri-urban communities and Traditional Owners (TOs) who can have significantly different backgrounds, experiences and aspirations to those Indigenous communities from remote or northern communities;
- Almost all SEQ TO communities were displaced from their traditional ‘Country’ in the colonial past and many are just now reuniting with their ‘Country’;
- Consequently, there is a vast range in awareness, understanding and capacity amongst TO groups;
- Very few youths from a Traditional Owner background have to date pursued tertiary and sub-tertiary studies in planning and natural resource management. This dearth of qualifications in these landscape management fields results in very limited numbers of suitably qualified TOs available to their communities to support them in the ongoing management of their ‘Country’;
- Sources and ownership of Traditional Indigenous Knowledge varies across the region and between groups with significant gaps existing;
- Overall the majority of the current representatives of the various TO groups and affiliations do not have a working history of collaborating especially on a whole of region basis and certainly not with a single regional scale focus;
- Sufficient corporate knowledge and experience still exist in the SEQ Indigenous communities with respect to the ‘regional’ model of engagement and its benefits to them as a whole;
- All SEQ TO groups have a large proportion of their community who live ‘off Country’ with a sizeable number of younger members who are/have studied away and are pursuing careers external to their ‘Country’ and indeed the SEQ region; and
- All groups are at different stages in seeking Native Title. Other groups have only just recently registered claims and it is conceivable that some groups may decide not to seek Native Title through the courts. There are external to SEQ examples of Traditional Owner groups gaining access to their ‘Country’ through non-court means.
These attributes have formed the basis for an Indigenous Engagement Action Plan including recommendations for implementation based on existing planning/strategic documents.
First Nations and NRM Planning in SEQ
First Nation’s people have a long involvement in NRM planning in SEQ at multiple scales. At a regional scale First People have advocated and played a pivotal role in the integration of Indigenous values in land use planning and resource management.
At a sub region or more accurately a First Nation scale (as depicted in Figure XX), Traditional Owners (many recognised as sovereign custodians by Native Title determinations) have developed stewardship plans and other documents to guide and influence policy and land use planning decisions.
Healthy Land and Water’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) reinforces this relationship and a broader commitment to enable respectful and appropriate inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the delivery of natural resource management activities and for equitable outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders.
Many of these projects involve partnership with organisations and local governments. This portfolio of projects is actively growing due to the established relationships between HLW staff and First Nations.
One example of such an organisation is the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation Registered Native Title Body Corporate (QYAC). QYAC is the registered Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC) created in accordance with the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). QYAC acts as the agent for the Quandamooka Peoples’ Native Title rights and interests in land and sea country. QYAC is also the registered cultural heritage body under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (QLD). QYAC is responsible for cultural heritage management across the Quandamooka Estate.
The Quandamooka Estate includes the majority of Quandamooka (Moreton Bay) Ramsar site. QYAC on behalf of the Quandamooka People is actively involved and in many cases leading the planning and stewardship of matters related to Quandamooka. Quandamooka Land and Sea Management Agency (QALSMA) manages Naree Budjong Djara National Park as part of a joint management arrangement with Queensland Parks and Wildlife. This has direct benefits for the restoration of, and reduction in threats to, the ecological character of Quandamooka as a Ramsar site.
The following are examples of the range and importance of projects lead by or involving First Nations in the region:
- Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland Project – Over the next five years, Healthy Land and Water will be working to reduce threats and restore habitat in and around the Moreton Bay Ramsar site, alongside project delivery partners including private landowners, land managers, local landcare groups, and Traditional Owners.
- The Pig Control on Quandamooka Country program is being rolled out across more than 600 hectares of Quandamooka Country to reduce and manage the island’s feral pig population, estimated to be between 20-40 pigs. The collaboration between QYAC and QPWS has provided Quandamooka rangers with the opportunity to grow the knowledge and learnings around pig control techniques and technologies being used to implement the program. It has also created an environment where QPWS Rangers learn from the QYAC Rangers about sites of significance and Traditional lifeways.
- Caring for Country on Guwawenewa (Goat Island) – This project involves supporting the Quandamooka People through QYAC to undertake restoration on Guwawenewa (Goat Island) through weed removal and the regeneration of native plants. This work aims to protect and enhance the ecological and cultural values of the island. Project works are also benefitting habitat for shorebirds and other unique fauna found on this small coral cay.
- Feral Pest Management on Minjerribah – During 2017, QYAC coordinated with other land managers on the installation of 150 bait stations across the island. More than 700 foxes were removed as a result.
QYAC and Healthy Land and Water are key partners in achieving targets (amongst others) in the SEQ NRM Plan related to Quandamooka. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) states the roles and responsibilities of the two entities.