Anna Bligh has announced Queensland will return more than 70,000 hectares of national park on Cape York Peninsula to its traditional indigenous owners.

The land was declared a national park in the seventies, in an effort by Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson to prevent the Wik Mungkan people buying their homeland.

Joanna Carson reports.

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The premier has called the decision an end to a shameful chapter in Queensland’s indigenous history.

Anna Bligh, Qld Premier: “The 75,530 hectare section of the Mungjan Kuji National park known as Archer Bend will be returned to the Wik Mungkan people over three decades after it was taken from them by the National Party government of the day.”

In 1977, Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson circumvented a Supreme court ruling by declaring Cape York lands National Park, denying the traditional Indigenous owners the right to purchase the land.

Thirty three years later, the current Premier is attempting to undo the damage already done.

Anna Bligh, Qld Premier: “I hope the measures we are taking today goes someway to ease the hurt that many indigenous people felt on that day in 1977 on that day and have felt ever since.”

Queensland Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said the decision represents a new era in Queensland’s history.

Kate Jones, Qld Sustainability Minister: “Traditional owners, government departments and conservation groups now work together to ensure traditional lands are protected for the future.”

Greening Australia supports the move to return 43 per cent of the park to the Indigenous people, saying they have the cultural knowledge to help protect the land.

Narelle Byatt, Greening Australia: “I think it is very important that we look at supporting and mainstreaming some of that traditional ecological knowledge in the management of our landscapes.”

The land will be returned as freehold land, allowing traditional owners to manage cultural and natural values, as well as establish businesses.

Joanna Carson, QUT News.