Cape York Peninsula

Cape York coastline heathlands. Photo credit: © Queensland Government

The exceptional cultural and natural values of Cape York Peninsula have been recognised and acknowledged by the local, national and international community and all levels of government for a long time. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted the region’s values as worthy of World Heritage listing in its 1982 report “The world’s greatest natural areas: an indicative inventory of natural sites of world heritage quality”.

In Australia, National Heritage listing can be the first step towards a World Heritage nomination.

The Queensland Government is committed to supporting the protection of cultural and natural heritage on Cape York Peninsula in partnership with First Nations peoples. To progress this, the government is inviting First Nations groups who are interested in pursuing a National Heritage nomination to email the DES World Heritage team at

Cape York heritage project

The Queensland Government has committed $200,000 to support the recognition and protection of the outstanding values of Cape York Peninsula, through the Cape York Heritage Assessment Grant program (the program).

Applications for the program closed on 4 November 2022, with successful projects announced in July 2023.

The program provides funding between $30,000 to $50,000 to support eligible Cape York Traditional Owners to undertake cultural heritage assessment and other work to identify priority cultural values of their Country and options for protection.

The Cape York Heritage Assessment grant program will contribute to:

  • Cultural heritage assessments which may support a future national or World Heritage nomination.
  • Bringing people together to reach agreement on priorities for cultural heritage protection and recognition.
  • Engaging a specialist to assist with documentation of cultural values or writing a nomination for National Heritage listing where appropriate.

Current projects

  1. Palmerville Limestone Research, Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation
    Location: Palmer, Cook Shire Council
  2. Assessing Balnggarrawarra Country for National Heritage Listing, South Cape York Catchments
    Location: Balnggarrawarra Country, CookShire Council
  3. Cultural Heritage on Muunthi Country, Muunthiwarra Aboriginal Corporation
    Location: Muundhi (Jack River) National Park: Cook Shire Council
  4. Increasing the Footprint of Binthi's National Heritage Listing Nomination, Binthi Land Holding Group Aboriginal Corporation
    Location: Hope Vale: Cook Shire Council


The Cape York Peninsula Heritage Act 2007 provided a legislative basis for identifying the significant natural and cultural values of Cape York Peninsula, and for the cooperative and ecologically sustainable management of the area.

In 2011 the Queensland Government invited First Nations groups to participate in an ‘opt in’ Country Based Planning program. The State Government provided First Nations groups with resources to undertake planning for their Country to consider their aspirations for Country and whether they aligned with World or National heritage listing. Eight groups participated in this process, resulting in First Nations led plans for managing, protecting, and recognising cultural heritage on Cape York Peninsula.

In December 2015, the Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) agreed to explore the possibility of including Cape York on Australia’s World Heritage Tentative List —a list of places that may be nominated for World Heritage listing in future years. An Agreed Statement was developed at the MEM articulating governments’ support for exploring World Heritage nominations for Cape York Peninsula and Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in Victoria.

Budj Bim Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the National Heritage list in 2004 and on the World Heritage list in 2019. Budj Bim is the first place inscribed on the World Heritage list in Australia exclusively for Aboriginal cultural values. The process was driven by the Gunditjamara people.

In November 2018, Quinkan Country became the first place on Cape York Peninsula to be inscribed on the National Heritage list. The Quinkan Country National Heritage nomination was submitted by First Nations families from the Laura region in 2013 following the community’s Country Based Planning process.

For more information, see Frequently asked questions—Cape York Peninsula heritage.