Hundreds of Butchulla people and supporters gathered at K’gari on 7 December to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the island being awarded World Heritage status in 1992.
Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) chair Aunty Gayle Minniecon said World Heritage status had led to greater investment in protecting K’gari’s unique natural environment.
She said Indigenous rangers brought in-built caring for country to their roles.
“K’gari is our mother, this is the creation,” she said.
“Our lore is whatever is best for the land comes first; if you have plenty you must share; and please don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you.
“When we talk about land, we don’t own the land, the land owns us.”
Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) supported the occasion, and chair Tony Ricciardi and CEO Sheila Charlesworth were in attendance.
Ms Charlesworth said partnerships with First Nations people were “extremely important” in natural resources management.
“They’ve been on the land in Australia, looking after it, for 60,000 years,” she said.
“They have some historical natural practices which we should learn from and incorporate, such as fire management.”
Ms Charlesworth said BMRG had worked with Indigenous organisations on projects including turtle management and erosion control.
On K’gari, BMRG was supporting ranger programs and ecotourism to develop sustainable business models and economic empowerment.
Ms Charlesworth said the World Heritage anniversary was a significant event.
“It’s important that we manage the island’s natural environment for future generations and have the traditional owners actively involved in this as partners and managers,” she said.
BAC secretary Christine Royan said it had been a long campaign to attain World Heritage status 30 years ago.
“K’gari is special as the largest sand island in the world,” she said.
“It’s important we work with good partners to protect our values and keep K’gari a beautiful place.”
Ms Royan said younger Butchulla people were learning culture and knowledge but more rangers were needed.
“The best people to look after country are our own people,” she said.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon attended and handed back another 670m2 of the island to the Butchulla people.
Minister Scanlon said the 30th anniversary was an opportunity to celebrate the importance of the World Heritage listing and what’s been done to protect the island.
“The World Heritage listing 30 years ago cemented K’gari’s rich environmental and cultural values, putting it on a global platform alongside places like the Grand Canyon,” she said.