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

Applications for the Cape York Heritage Assessment Grant program are now closed. Applications are being assessed and, once approved, applicants will be notified of the outcome of their applications.

The department established the Cape York Heritage Assessment Grant program which provides funding of between $30,000 and $50,000 to support groups who wish to document their cultural values. This funding could contribute to: cultural heritage assessments which may support a future national or world heritage nomination; bringing people together for meetings to reach agreement on a nomination; and engaging a specialist to assist with writing a nomination document.

The Cape York Heritage Assessment Grant Program guidelines (PDF, 337.5KB) and the Cape York Heritage Assessment Grant Program brochure (PDF, 689KB) (PDF, 689.1KB) provide more information about the program.


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.