For example, the Mayalam Marine Park is famous for its horizontal waterfalls, a phenomenon that occurs when a tidal stream is pushed with great force through two successive holes in the slopes of the McClarty mountain range, creating “waterfalls” up to four meters high.
Powerful steamboats can now traverse the two openings, but in the past the aborigines would navigate these treacherous coastal waters in traditional wooden boats or Galois. In doing so, they made use of their empirical knowledge about the tides, which they passed on to later generations through Elma’s rituals of singing and dancing, among other things.
According to Kevin George, foreman of the Bardi Jawi Niimidiman Aboriginal Corporation, which represents two of the area’s indigenous people, these traditions could be better preserved in the new marine reserves. “As traditional owners, we want to maintain our traditional way of life and take care of the resources and environments we have taken care of,” he says.
Indigenous peoples of Cape York Peninsula
In North Queensland, Aboriginal people are happy to be given control of areas they have held for so long: a vast expanse of pristine wilderness on the Cape York Peninsula, marked by rainforests, jagged peaks and beautiful beaches.
For thousands of years, Cape York Peninsula has been inhabited by Aboriginal and Aboriginal people of the Torres Strait Islands, an archipelago located north of the peninsula. It is the only area in Australia where both indigenous groups live side by side.
The Cape York Peninsula has now completely returned to its original inhabitants, which means more than 400 square miles of wildlife have been restored. An additional 3,000 square kilometers has been allocated to Apudthama National Park and Yamarrinh Wachangan Islands National Park, which will be jointly administered by the state and the indigenous peoples. All national parks on Cape York Peninsula are now jointly managed, with 43,000 square kilometers of land being returned to traditional owners over the past 30 years.
According to Reginald Williams, the indigenous leader of Yadigana, the measures will benefit five indigenous peoples. Extending this management across the peninsula means that wildlife in the area is less likely to be damaged by mining. These communities are now allowed to mark sacred sites in the landscape, which also allows them to protect endangered species using traditional methods. They now have more space to perform their cultural ceremonies, including initiation rites, and to train young people in skills such as hunting, gathering, and cooking.
Indigenous peoples want to showcase the peninsula’s rare biodiversity and fauna, including marsupials like couscous, turtles like the Jardin River’s red-bellied turtle, and birds like the cassowary’s helmet. In addition, they want to organize tours of the Cape York Peninsula to show and explain some traditional customs. “We believe that tourists can visit Cape York Peninsula to see for themselves how two unique cultural groups are [Aboriginals en Torres Strait Islanders] Living together in one area,” says Williams.
Inspired by these developments, the original travel agency Strait Experience will soon launch the “The Strait in a Day” tour, which will take travelers on a journey from Cairns to the Torres Strait Islands. “Most tourists who visit North Queensland just go to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest and lose touch with the local culture in the area, and we want to change that,” said Fraser Nye, co-founder of the company.
“There is still a lot that needs to be done before the traditional owners feel we’ve taken our land back,” Williams says. “But we’re getting close and that’s very exciting.”
Australian journalist and photographer Ronan O’Connell lives alternately in Ireland, Thailand and Western Australia.
This article was originally published in English at nationalgeographic.com
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