Samuel Davis, Cape York Weekly
The legacy of one of Cape York’s most controversial figures is being revisited following a major land handback to traditional owners. Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk returned more than 362,000 hectares to the Gudang/Yadhaykenu, Atambaya and Angkamuthi (Seven Rivers) peoples at Injinoo last week.
As part of the agreement, Jardine River National Park has been renamed Apudthama National Park and will be managed by native title holders in partnership with the Queensland government.
The brutal history of the Jardine settlers, who served as police magistrates, farmers and administrators in the region, makes for uncomfortable reading.
In 1864, Frank along with his younger brother, Alexander, drove 250 cattle from Rockhampton to the Cape’s tip, killing Aboriginal people on their 10-month journey.
“These people were seen as colonial heroes by European Australians at the time,” James Cook University historian Claire Brennan told Cape York Weekly.
“They’re described as gallant in writings and praised for the way they behaved.
“The view of them is righteous and yet we see them as violent men forcing their way through now.
“The brothers aren’t inquisitive scientific explorers. They’re settling cattle and they’re doing it because they see money in it.”
The name change reflects changing attitudes towards colonial settlers across the globe, Dr Brennan said.
“This is part of a broader move to deal with the colonial movement and assess it from the present,” she said.
“We’ve seen the ‘statue wars’ deal with explorers and colonial administrators who are linked to atrocities in the past. In 2020, Western Australia renamed the King Leopold Ranges to Wunaamin Miliwundi.
“It’s going on all over the world. It’s great to see this happen in Queensland as we come to terms with our past.”
Gudang Yadhaykenu Traditional Owner Nick Thompson Wymarra said changing the park’s name to Apudthama (which means “everybody”) was an important step forward.
“It’s been great to be able to have the opportunity to revive our dreaming again and for who we are, our identity,” Mr Wymarra told media at the handback.
“Who we are has been lost for many decades. Definitely it will be a brighter future for our kids, our grandkids and great grandkids.”
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said many community members had waited generations to have their land back. “This is about land justice,” Minister Scanlon said last week.
“It’s about supporting the ambitions and aspirations of First Nations communities.
The land will be granted to the Ipima Ikaya Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC and the Atambaya Aboriginal Corporation on behalf of the Traditional Owners.
Also included in the handback is Denham Group National Park, part of Heathlands Reserve and Jardine River Reserve; and two offshore islands.
The area is made up of 319,300 hectares of national park and 42,799 hectares of Aboriginal freehold land.