When engaging Traditional Owners on Cape York Peninsula, the observance of the guidelines of traditional governance and customary tenure, is required

A governance framework, which ensures the right people speak for the right country, was implemented earlier this year, after decades of discussions between all the inhabitants of Cape York. Discussions involved  traditional custodians of country, Cape York Natural Resource Management, all tiers of government, tourism, and other Indigenous and non-indigenous landholders, including pastoralists and farmers.

Cape York Natural Resource Management staff work with Land and Sea Indigenous Reference Groups (IRGs), in a process initiated by Cape York traditional owners, to establish the correct way for consultations on issues like the  World Heritage listing. Reference groups advocate a bottom-up approach to ensure correct representation and engagement of Traditional Owners (TO).

Indigenous Engagement Coordinator, Don De Busch, says the IRG process is a repatriation of traditional governance arrangements that have always existed under Indigenous law for the governing of the landscape.

“The IRGs provide a pathway for people to work together so all landholders can have a say in managing country.

Through the IRGs there is current potential for the Cape York community to work together to manage country, with Cape York Natural Resource Management guiding the way," he said.

“An IRG  is made up of  individuals who have authority bestowed by the Elders, or are Elders.  They may speak for country and pass on information to their clan estates. Rather than telling people what to do, we ask what do you want to do?” Mr De Busch said.

IRGs enable Traditional Owners in Cape York who have authority to speak for their country, to have a new path of self-governance and selfdetermination.  This right is based on a governance system that allows everybody in the community of Cape York and other interested parties to be heard.

The IRG governance structure enables better coordination and informed decision-making for relevant parcels of landscape in Cape York.

For more information phone: 1300 132 262.