Frequently asked questions—Cape York Peninsula heritage

    How is the government supporting protection and recognition of cultural and natural heritage on Cape York Peninsula?

    For many years, the First Nations people of the Cape York Peninsula, in partnership with the Queensland Government and the local community, have been managing and protecting the cultural and natural heritage values of the region through successful programs including:

    The Queensland Government has long recognised the unique cultural and natural values of Cape York Peninsula and has a long-standing commitment to work with First Nations peoples and the local community to achieve national and international recognition and protection of these values.

    Over time, a significant amount of work has been undertaken to support progressing this commitment, including collation of information on potential natural and cultural values, community views and establishment of a culturally appropriate (Country Based Planning) framework to support First Nations people to make an informed decision about consent for a nomination.

    This work resulted in Country Based Plans which remain the property of the First Nations people who prepared them, as well as a suite of expert reports which may support the progression of future National or World Heritage nominations.

    A nomination for recognition of Quinkan Country on the National Heritage list was submitted to the Australian Government by First Nations families in Laura in 2013. Quinkan Country was added to Australia’s National Heritage list in 2018 and you can read more about that at the Ang-Gnarra Corporation website.

    The government is currently inviting First Nations groups on Cape York Peninsula who are interested in pursuing a National Heritage nomination for their Country to get in touch to discuss options for support. Contact world.heritage@des.qld.gov.au

    What is National Heritage?

    The National Heritage List recognises, celebrates and protects places that have outstanding heritage value to the nation. A place may be listed for its natural, cultural or historic values or any combination of these.

    National Heritage places are protected and recognised as a matter of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    Funding to manage and protect National and World Heritage listed places is available through the Australian Heritage Grants Program.

    This annual program aims to improve recognition, conservation, preservation and access to the heritage values of National Heritage listed places. The Australian Government calls for applications for funding under this program each year and you can find out more at the Australian Heritage Grants webpage.

    National Heritage listing is the Australian Government’s preferred first step towards consideration of a World Heritage nomination, though recognition on the National Heritage list does not necessarily mean that a World Heritage nomination will or must follow.

    Who can submit a National Heritage nomination?

    Anyone can nominate a place with heritage values for the National Heritage List, providing they meet the criteria. Information about the nomination process is available on the Australian Government National Heritage Listing website.

    Nominations must set out the qualities or values of the place that make it outstanding to the nation by indicating how the place meets one or more of the National Heritage Criteria. Nominations must also demonstrate the support of the relevant First Nations people for that Country.

    There can be no better demonstration of support for a National Heritage nomination than if that nomination is made by the First Nations people who speak for that Country.

    First Nations groups on Cape York Peninsula who are interested in progressing towards greater recognition and protection of their cultural and natural values are encouraged to consider nominating their Country, in part or in full, for National Heritage listing.

    What is World Heritage?

    World Heritage sites are places that are considered to have either natural and/or cultural values that are internationally important. Only unique and exceptional places around the world are listed.

    Australia has long recognised the importance of preserving its rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage and was one of the first countries to ratify the World Heritage Convention in 1974. As a party to the World Heritage Convention, Australia has obligations to identify, protect, conserve, and transmit to future generations the values of these areas.

    Australia’s World Heritage properties are protected under State legislation and under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, an Act recognised as world’s best practice for protecting World Heritage values.

    Australia currently has 20 World Heritage sites. Some of these are; Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and K’gari (Fraser Island).

    Who can submit a World Heritage nomination?

    The Australian Government is the only entity that can submit a nomination to have a place in Australia inscribed on the World Heritage list.

    Sites are inscribed on the World Heritage list when a State Party to the World Heritage Convention (Australia) puts forward a nomination which has the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations people and it is accepted by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

    The most recent successful World Heritage nomination put forward by Australia is Budj Bim Cultural Landscape which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2019.

    This listing recognises the special cultural values of the Country of the Gunditjamara people and is the first successful World Heritage nomination process initiated by a First Nations group in Australia. The Gunditjamara people worked in partnership with the Australian Government to prepare the nomination and were present at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan when the decision was made to inscribe the property on the World Heritage list.

    What is the government's approach to ensuring the free, prior, and informed consent of First Nations people for National or World Heritage nominations?

    The Queensland Government is developing and implementing a ‘rights-based’ approach to National and World heritage nominations in Queensland. The concept of a rights-based approach to World Heritage was initiated in 2007 with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It identified an “urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples…especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources”. UNDRIP calls on governments to adopt free, prior, and informed consent as a pre-requisite for any activity that affects the ancestral lands, territories and natural resources of First Nations peoples. This was signed by Australia in 2009 and the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention was amended to reflect the UNDRIP in 2015.

    The department’s Gurra Gurra Framework 2020–2026 embeds a rights-based approach to working with First Nations people and aligns with the principles of UNDRIP in relation to free, prior and informed consent.

    There can be no better demonstration of free, prior and informed consent for World or National Heritage listing than a nomination which is prepared and submitted by the First Nations people who speak for that Country.

    For this reason, the Queensland Government is engaging First Nations groups on Cape York Peninsula who are interested in nominating their Country. Information from previous studies and other data may be available to support First Nations people to prepare National Heritage nominations for their Country. Please contact world.heritage@des.qld.gov.au for more information.

    Is the government committed to progressing a World Heritage nomination for parts of Cape York Peninsula?

    The Queensland Government remains committed to progressing a nomination of parts of Cape York Peninsula for inscription on the World Heritage list, subject to the free, prior, and informed consent of the First Nations people and the support of the broader community.

    At the present time, the priority is to identify places on Cape York Peninsula which are suitable for National Heritage recognition, and to provide support to progress appropriate nominations.

    The Australian Government prefers to draw new World Heritage nominations from properties which are already recognised for their cultural or natural heritage on the National Heritage list. Achieving recognition on the National Heritage list can be the first step on the pathway towards World Heritage listing.

    What areas of Cape York Peninsula might be included on the National Heritage List?

    Areas of Cape York will only be included on the National Heritage List if nominations have the consent of the relevant First Nations peoples, and the place meets National Heritage criteria.

    At the present time, there is one place on Cape York Peninsula which is recognised on the National Heritage List. Quinkan Country was inscribed on the National Heritage List in 2018.

    First Nations families from the Laura region made the submission to have the special values of Quinkan Country recognised on the National Heritage List in 2013.

    It is anticipated that, given the unique cultural and natural heritage values for which this region is well known, there will be many other places on Cape York Peninsula that will meet the criteria for achieving recognition on the National Heritage List.

    Will the government be funding Country Based Plans?

    A number of communities already have plans in place, some of which were developed through Country Based Planning processes in the past. Others have been developed with other funding support or through community initiative.

    Communities where land overlaps with national parks have undergone initial planning to develop Management Statements. Some communities already know their position on recognition of heritage on their Country or have a good basis on which to make a decision. However, a number of groups may find that they need further information, particularly around the future governance and management of a potential National Heritage area.

    The government is committed to working with First Nations groups, to support progress of a nomination for National Heritage.

    To achieve greater clarity on whether a National Heritage nomination is supported by a First Nations group or not, it may be decided that Country Based Planning would provide the necessary time and resources to consider National Heritage.

    Communities interested in discussing this further are invited to contact the department at world.heritage@des.qld.gov.aufor more information.

    Does National Heritage listing affect tenure?

    No. National Heritage listing does not affect tenure; tenure remains as it was before nomination and state and local laws still apply. National Heritage properties do not become Commonwealth property, nor does ownership pass to any other organisation.

    What tenures can National Heritage apply to?

    National Heritage areas can include all sorts of land tenures, including pastoral leases, national parks, conservation parks, freehold, Aboriginal land, unallocated crown land and council reserves. However, it is important to note that for a property to be assessed as favourable for National Heritage listing, the nomination must also have landholder consent.

    Will National Heritage listing change what can be done on my Country?

    For the most part, activities occurring on the land can continue when it is listed as National Heritage.

    Significant new proposed activities which may impact the values for which the place is recognised may trigger referral to the Australian Government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 allows Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples to make applications to protect places and objects from injury or desecration.

    The Department of Resources lists the process of mining permits and exploration applications and should be contacted for further information.

    What are the benefits of National Heritage listing?

    A National Heritage listing for parts of Cape York Peninsula would provide recognition of these important areas at a national level.

    Places inscribed on the National Heritage List are protected for the values for which they are listed and are subject to the provisions of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    There are also grant opportunities available to support projects that contribute to the recognition, conservation, preservation, and community engagement for places that are listed on the National Heritage list.

    How does National Heritage listing happen?

    Anyone can make a National Heritage nomination. Nominations must address the National Heritage criteria and be supported by the First Nations people and the landholder of the place which is being nominated.

    The Australian Heritage Council assesses the heritage values of a nominated place against the nine national heritage criteria and reports to the Australian Minister for the Environment.

    In conducting its assessments, the Australian Heritage Council must consult with the owner or occupier of a place as well as First Nations people with rights or interests in the place.

    The Australian Minister for the Environment may consult further prior to a listing decision and will make the final decision on including a place on the National Heritage list.

    If you wish to nominate a place for the National Heritage List, you can find more information on the Australian Government National Heritage listing website.

    What is the first step to nominating my Country for inclusion on the National Heritage list?

    If you and others in your community are interested in pursuing National Heritage listing for your Country, we would love you to get in touch with us to discuss your ideas and how we can support you.

    We can help to explain the process, organise an information session with others in your community, and provide other resources for getting started.

    The department is also inviting groups to apply for funding through the Cape York Heritage Assessment Grant program. This program provides funding of between $30,000 and $50,000 for groups to prepare a National Heritage submission. This funding can be used for meetings and cultural heritage assessments to support a nomination, as well as to engage a specialist to assist with writing the nomination document

    Please read the Cape York Heritage Assessment Grant Guidelines (PDF, 300.5KB) for more information about who is eligible to apply, funding priorities, what the funding can be used for and how to apply.

    Applications are to be made online by midnight AEST Friday, 29 July 2022.

    Contact and more information

    You are invited to register your interest to receive updates regarding the Cape York Heritage Project, or send an email to world.heritage@des.qld.gov.au.

    More information is available on the National Heritage List criteria webpage