Friday 10 April 2009

Wild about Wild Rivers

CairnsBlog columnist Bryan Law, was part of developing the 'Green/Black' alliance in 1993/94, but was frozen out by the white conservation leadership of Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society.

The breakdown came over the then proposed 'East Coast Conservation Zone', promised by the Goss Cabinet Office in 1995, shortly before they lost power.

Here's Bryan's story and how he sees the impact of Labor's brutal Wild Rivers protection legislation, announced this week, to prevent any activity on or near the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart River basins on Cape York. These magnificent rivers are the lifeblood for the Cape's communities and a huge diversity of wildlife.

The Green/Black alliance was started in 1990/91 by a bunch of Queensland greenies including Nikki Hungerford and Mark Horstman, who got together with a number of Aboriginal leaders to hammer out protocols and possibilities for political alliance.

Noel Pearson and the Cape York Land Council, formed in 1991, was one key organisation. The campaign to give Starke Station back to its Aboriginal people was the earliest and probably most successful joint campaign. Michael Winer played a big role.

I got to play a small role through participation in the “People” working group of the Cape York Peninsula Land Use Study, where I represented CAFNEC, and where CYLC was also represented along with Islanders, Pastoralists, Miners, and other interest groups.

In 1994 I attended a meeting in Coen of the Peninsula Branch of the Cattlemen’s Union. With David Byrne from CYLC, and Warren Entsch, I helped formulate a resolution which was passed by the meeting that included a reciprocal recognition of rights between Aborigines and pastoralists. This was the basis of the Cape York Heads of Agreement that was negotiated successfully in 1994/95.

While I was active, the principles upon which negotiations were conducted included:

  • 1 - Recognition
    Recognition of the sovereign rights of Aboriginal people to their land.
    It wasn’t some kind of charity deal where blackfellas got to jump through hoops set up by white scientists, or white conservationists, or white bureaucrats.

    Aboriginal people were recognised as the owners and custodians of land that they had decision-making power over. This principle wasn’t problem-free. Many conservationists then, as now, stir up feelings through the “anti indigenous hunting” agenda in which they attempt to instruct Aboriginal people about “real” Aboriginal culture, and place restrictions on what Aborigines are allowed to do on their land.

Those of us who supported the alliance addressed this issue by pointing first to the historical record. In terms of conservation values and bio-diversity every survey shows that these values are highest on Aboriginal controlled land.

If we’ve got a chance to preserve it now, it’s because of the traditional and contemporary land management practices of Aboriginal people. The second issue we would raise was the contrast between conservation practices on Aboriginal Land, and the impact of the European industrial economy. For example, species extinction is driven by habitat loss and compromise, not Aboriginal hunting. More Dugong die from poor trawling practices and boat strike than from traditional hunting.

Therefore environmentalists could produce good conservation outcomes by moving more land into Aboriginal ownership. This proposal has never been universally accepted.

  • 2 - Good Faith
    Beyond that simple formula, Aboriginal people were willing to show good faith when it came to land transfers by negotiating land management plans as part of any transfer.

    So some of Starke station became National Park, which was leased back to the Queensland government and managed by Department of Environment & Heritage (who don’t do a very good job). Other parts were held as Aboriginal land subject to land management plans.

Gerhard Pearson said the other night that a rule of thumb formula was adopted between Traditional Owners and Green groups that 50% of land transfers would be placed under conservation regimes, and 50% would be treated as private for indigenous use. I wasn’t part of these discussions, but Gerhart doesn’t have any reason to lie.

  • 3 - Inclusiveness.
    The Heads of Agreement was based on the recognition of common interests. Pastoralist, Aborigines and Conservationists all have interests in common. Control of feral animals and weeds. Regional and local autonomy in planning land use. Cooperation in formulating government policy. The idea was to build alliances that governments of all persuasions would have to listen to.

Now in 1995, the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation betrayed all three of these principle when it pursued the East Coast Conservation Zone that was promised by the Goss cabinet Office during the Queensland state election in 1995.

That was a proposal without detail to buy up all the cattle stations along the East Coast of Cape York Peninsula and turn them into National Park, in which Aboriginal people would have rights of 'joint management'. Brush up on the history of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area to gauge the effectiveness and success of 'joint management' between government bureaucracies and Aboriginal people.

The Goss government won the election with a majority of one. It lost the Mundingburra by-election six months later, and the East Coast Conservation Zone never amounted to anything, although it successfully poisoned relations between the 'allies' of the Cape York Heads of Agreement.

The Wild Rivers legislation is the modern day equivalent of the East Coast Conservation Zone, except that it is much more vehemently opposed by Aboriginal groups.


I’m at a loss. I’m horrified by the old-style “winners and losers” politics and negotiation of preferences that took place during this year’s election. To be honest, it makes a mockery of the Greens pretence to be a new style of political organisation. The negotiations run by Drew Hutton and Ronan Lee were anti-democratic and effectively racist.

I know that at the campaign meeting of the Barron River greens, “Wild Rivers” never came up as an issue because Di Horsburgh never raised it, and because Margaret and I had made an agreement not to mention the Indigenous Environment Foundation – because of all the conflict around the issue. In the end the preference decision was made in Brisbane, and was pretty strongly supported by local Greens in the absence of any discussion or debate.

It seems pretty clear to me now that one consequence of my exclusion from the Greens is that certain matters will never be debated, and undue power will continue to be exercised by the small minority of old-style politicos who seek, not a genuine Green agenda, but influence with the ALP.

For three years I’ve been going easy and looking for cooperative ways forward. I have to say that hasn’t worked. I’ll be dead within five years, and I don’t think I’ll ever be a 'Green'.

If we look at 'Wild Rivers' in its broader context what 'we’ve' won is the primacy of Natural Resources Minister Steven Robertson - a man so successful as Health Minister he had to be sacked - in managing land that already has very high conservation values, and is dead-set likely to keep them under Aboriginal management.

Where’s the effective gain? The price we pay for that is to alienate Noel Pearson and many other leaders, put the final nail in the coffin of the Green/Black alliance, and develop the Greens reputation as an obedient branch of the Labor Party.

I see we’ll do much the same with farmers through the moratorium on clearing regrowth. I guess Blackfellas and farmers are easy to push around.

How do you think we’ll go with the Coal industry? Public transport in Cairns? Local participation in planning?

Dare I mention democratic values?

Cape York's

Gulf Country
Settlement Creek - 2 Gregory River -
Morning Inlet - 4 Staaten River

Hinchinbrook Island - 6 Fraser Island (off map)

Cape York Peninsula
Coleman River - 8 Holroyd River -
Archer River (NEWLY protected) -
Watson River -
Wenlock River (WS campaigning) -
Ducie River -
Jardine River - 14 Jacky Jacky Creek -
Olive River - 16 Pascoe River -
Lockhart River (NEWLY protected) -
Stewart River (NEWLY protected) - 19 Jeannie River


John, Kuranda said...

I was very impressed with Bryan Law’s article; adding a little more to my knowledge of the issues and of Cape York.

The principles of negotiation that Bryan talks about are as relevant today as they were 15 years ago – recognition, good faith and inclusiveness. It’s too bad that Governments and groups pick and choose which of the 3 principles they want to use to suit their own purposes rather than accepting they can only exist and have validity as a whole.

My take on the Wild Rivers issue is that the Labor government has blatantly jumped into bed with the Greens to the exclusion of all others. Look again at these principles. What is lacking is inclusiveness – in this case Indigenous Australians in Cape York have been excluded in a process designed not for their benefit but for rank political outcomes. And in the end the Greens sacrificed the rights of Indigenous Cape Yorkers to try to save Ronan Lee; but failed.

So why is this all so wrong? Is not that I don’t want to see the pristine beauty of Cape York maintained – I do. For me it’s all about that third principle. The traditional owners of Cape York have maintained it for thousands of years and will continue to do so with or without governments. But they deserve the right to be involved.

One leader has called the decision economic apartheid. In sense he is correct. There is the opportunity for Indigenous enterprise to develop against the backdrop of Cape York. As is already happening in some areas. Take the Archer River for example. “Local Indigenous people have established a successful boat charter company which explores the wonders of this globally important area, kept healthy by the natural flows of the Archer River catchment.” – So says the website. This is hardly large scale economic activity but provides local employment opportunities. But the Archer has now been proclaimed a ‘wild river’. So where does that leave this boat charter business? High and dry? Its employees and owners back on government hand-outs?

Denying Indigenous people the opportunity to work with the natural wonders of Cape York condemns them to a cycle of welfare handouts, lack of personal self esteem and a cycle of social and health problems. No rational thinking Australia can possibly deny someone the opportunity to rise above the gloom of despair.

There is this idea going around that only the Greens and Labor can protect the environment and the rights of Indigenous Australians. There was quite a bit of robust discussion about this on CairnsBlog in the leadup to the election.

But times they are a changing and it’s time that people realise that whilst the LNP may be policy-wise economically conservative it does not necessarily mean that they want to destroy the environment or tread on the rights of Indigenous Australians for the almighty buck.

But please, don't jump on my back about what happenned in the past. Its just over 40 years since we gave Aboriginal Australian the rights of citizenship. We all share in the shame that we actually needed a referendum to correct that great error in our nations history. I am not interested in what Joh did, or what Borbidge said or what Howard did not do. The past, whilst important, is still the past. What is the challenge now is the here and now and the future; the future of both black and white Australians.

The political landscape here in TFNQ at least is changing. Some Indigenous Australians are realising that they are not just vote fodder for an exploitive and voracious ALP election machine. That is why we had an Indigenous presence for the LNP at the Kuranda polling booth.

And I would hope that the local Greens will have the gumption to stand up to Mr Hutton in three years time and say “Hey we want to talk to the Barron River LNP”. At the end of the day what we all want is to live in this great piece of paradise. The Greens, following on from their vote drop in Barron River run the risk of becoming increasingly seen as the subservient tools of the ALP.

And yes (again) for the record, I am a member of the LNP. I choose not to use my full name as I frankly don't want hate calls at home. Yes Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore -that does happen. Just as Jason can attest to.

Glenn Walker, Wilderness Society said...

I've seen your curious blog about "Wild about wild rivers".

You've used my photo of the Wenlock River without permission and I ask that it immediately be taken off the site. I am the Wild Rivers Campaigner for TWS, but I am requesting this in my personal capacity as the photo was taken by me and donated to TWS.

You've also used a shot by Kerry Trapnell - have you sought permission to use this also?

Best to seek proper permission before using other people's images on your internet rants.

I'm not going to even bother pointing out the numerous inaccauracies in your article Bryan Law.

Michael P Moore said...

Photo removed as requested.

Jude Johnston said...

Glen, rather than be a bit "prickly" about a couple of photo's, why not write to the Blog with your perspective. You come across as being a bit " on the defensive". I don't agree with Brian in lots of things, but I don't know enough about Cape York issues to know if he is correct or not. He comes across as being knowledgeable on this issue. Most of us "devotees" of Cairns Blog like to be well informed.

Bryan Law said...

Glenn, if you’re “not going to even bother” pointing out the numerous inaccuracies in my story, it’s difficult to see how this issue will be resolved amicably.

Most of the article was written at the request of Greens members looking for background to the kind of politics that has led to such division and bitterness between Bama and greenies in Cape York Peninsula. What I wrote was a recollection of what I lived through in the early/mid nineties. I stand by it. I don’t remember you being there.

If you’d like to correct me, a good way to start would be citing the range of senior Bama leadership presently supporting the Wild Rivers legislation, and the kinds of consultative processes you’ve used to arrive at the legislation and its impacts on Bama.

Among the limited range of contacts I have, and my wife tells me the same story, all the Bama we know are upset at being subjected to another layer of government regulation and supervision for no very useful purpose. Some Greens are now questioning the wisdom of pulling on a fight with Noel Pearson and the CYLC, and the many non-Bama greenies who will support them. Other Greens, and it seems the Wilderness Society, are going to defend what they’ve done – in part by attacking Noel (and getting stroppy about the “proper” permission for use of photos).

CairnsBlog author Michael Moore made up the title of the Blog story “Wild about Wild Rivers” after talking with me and hearing how angry I am about what TWS and a small cabal of Greens have done to Bama in what I consider to be a racist and anti-democratic manner. I’m happy to negotiate a way forward, but if that’s not possible I’m also willing to face a win/lose campaign aimed at TWS and the Greens. Who knows? If we get rid of the undemocratic old-style politicos, perhaps there’ll be room for a different and better politics of inclusion. From where I sit, it’s your choice.

Syd Walker said...

Hi Bryan. You slide around between using the terms 'Greens', green and greenies until they all become interchangeable - which is probably how they are in your rather disgruntled mind.

You claim personal historical insights into events in the 1990s of which I had no direct experience. But my confidence that your account of those events is accurate is diminished by the poor quality of your narrative where it covers more recent events that do overlap with my own experience.

You write about a "small minority of old-style politicos who don’t seek a genuine Green agenda". Is Sarah Isaacs an 'old-style politico', Bryan? And how do you know what a ‘genuine’ Green agenda is, anyway? How come old-timers get to define it? :-)

I find your lack of references problematic. For example, you write: "In terms of conservation values and bio-diversity every survey shows that these values are highest on Aboriginal controlled land." If you make sweeping (and very interesting) statements like that, a reference or two would be nice.

Your exclusion from The Greens in FNQ... As you know, several people disagreed with this, myself included. But I have increasingly come to wonder whether exclusion doesn’t suit you rather well - because it gives you the victim status you appear to cherish. Perhaps you like to be on the outer because it's a better soapbox for your iconoclasm - and provides opportunities for pontificating about the 'underlying significance’ of your exclusion?

The way you bandy around accusations of racism is puerile. It is a good illustration of why most people are better off not using a word that has been so over-used and devalued. Accusing good people like Drew Hutton of ‘racism’ is offensive. What real evidence do you have for that claim? It's time to produce it – if you have any.

Having said all of that, I'm glad you raised the issue of Wild Rivers in this blog and think it's important your perspective is heard. I do query the accuracy of your contribution and the conclusions that you draw.

Glenn Walker, who seems to think copyright infringement on 'his' photos is more important than discussing the underlying issues, which are of great current interest in this community, is a poor advertisement for The Wilderness Society. Perhaps he was having a bad day?

If the TWS Wild Rivers Campaigner won't deign to debate the substantive issues here, could someone else at TWS find the time?

More than one Aboriginal spokesperson has expressed views contrary to Noel Pearson since the latter’s outburst over the Wild Rivers declarations last week. Here's an example:

“the legislation won the backing of Gina Castelain, an up and coming indigenous leader who is involved in a tourism business based in Aurukun.

"We want to protect our environment and our rivers," Ms Castelain said. "We are working hard to develop and maintain economic activity which does not harm our waterways."

Ms Castelain said local Aborigines were trying to develop ventures such as recreational fishing and ecotourism, but their efforts were being undermined by commercial fishing in the Archer River, one of the newly gazetted wild rivers.

"The ongoing commercial fishing activity in the Archer Basin is inconsistent with our efforts to establish low-impact tourism."

How do you explain Gina Castelain’s perspective, Bryan, in terms of your simplistic Good v Bad, Black v Green, ‘Old-Style’ v ‘New’ world view?

How about the views expressed by Murrandoo Yanner?

"The majority of the people who aren't involved in that would rather have the sustainable rivers so we can continue as we have for thousands of years to draw our food and nourishment from those rivers, rather than see a few Aboriginal people financially benefit at the expense of the rest of us being left in a dust bowl".

This is already a long comment, so I won't reply in full to the comment from John from Kuranda, other than to say that you John, like Bryan, present a biased, partisan narrative that amounts to a serious distortiuon of the truth. For instance, you write:

"Indigenous Australians in Cape York have been excluded in a process designed not for their benefit but for rank political outcomes. And in the end the Greens sacrificed the rights of Indigenous Cape Yorkers to try to save Ronan Lee; but failed."

What a stretch!

If the LNP wishes to be seen as a natural choice for indigenous people or conservationists it has more work to do yet, despite your own welcome efforts.

Bryan Outlaw said...

Even the other lefties time and time again are turning their back on Bryan Law. He claims he was a "founder" of these various green groups, but somehow they've "frozen him" out. Just like the real, intellectual lefties in Cairns. They've frozen him out as well, especially after seeing his pitiful performance at various Yacht Club protests. Law is a self-promoter and lefty for hire. Perhaps his lack of ethics, moral corruption, and blatant self-promotion have combined to make his views hollow and irrelevant.

As already noted by Syd, your exaggerations are legendary Mr. Law.

Bruce White said...

I applaud Bryan Laws' posting locating the latest round of 'wild' rivers declarations as but one, possibly ill conceived foray in what is in fact a long standing battle between a locally resident, majority indigenous Aboriginal population .. and an extended externally driven, non-resident, non-indigenous 'green' campaign to transform Cape York into a one of the world's great wilderness areas

For all those with a history in Far North Queensland and the Cape, you may also recall:

1. the way Aurukun based John Kowarta and family purchased Archer River Bend only to find it transformed overnight into a National Park (Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Government)? (Win 1 for the "greens")

2. the way Hopevale based Merv Gibson and the Aboriginal Coordinating Council had to travel internationally to beg the World Heritage Committee not to assist enable 'greens' to effectively seize control of Aboriginal owned and managed lands (Win 2 for the "greens")

3. the way Goss Minister for Environment, Pat Comben, sought to declare National Park from east to west coast of Cape York including Archer River and Aurukun wetlands .. inviting Richard Attenborough to celebrate and announce this achievement (Win 1 for the local Aboriginal peoples)

I'm sure we could all go further documenting the detail of the long history of various forays in the back and forth between local Aboriginal peoples & green campaigners ..

Thankfully for all concerned, the General Assembly in 2007 approved by absolute majority a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples .. providing guidelines for nations around the world to deal with exactly this kind of tension and conflict over the future use of indigenous people's lands and natural/cultural resources.

Even more thankfully, the Rudd Government has just announced it's firm support for that United Nations Declaration .. and all concerned (Bryan Law, Joh n Kuranda, Greg Walker, Jude Johnston, Syd Walker, Noel Pearson, Sarah Isaacs, Steven Roberston, and Anna Bligh) will all now know the good, proper, right, internationally (& IUCN) endorsed way of proceeding is .. for the future dignity and wellbeing of the Aboriginal peoples of Cape York!!

, I ththe current "wild" rivers declarations

attention to, and recall some of the long, extended history of tension and between the Aboriginal residents of Cape York

For all who have a history in Far North Queensland (and, of course, almost all the Aboriginal peoples of the Cape do!) ..

Bryan Law said...

Hi Syd,

You call it “a serious distortion of the truth”, but I agree with John from Kuranda that "Indigenous Australians in Cape York have been excluded in a process designed not for their benefit but for rank political outcomes. And in the end the Greens sacrificed the rights of Indigenous Cape Yorkers to try to save Ronan Lee; but failed."

The small cabal of old-style politicos in Brisbane who negotiated the preference deal consider themselves as “Realos” (political realists) as distinct from “Fundis” (Ideological Fundamentalists) when it comes to applying Green principles. Thus principles like “grass-roots democracy”, “recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty”, “Consensus” and “social justice” are able to be compromised in the pursuit of Parliamentary power and the ability to make a “real” difference.

Drew Hutton and Ronan Lee in Brisbane controlled the preference negotiations to extract policy promises from the ALP, and Labor preferences for Ronan in Indooroopilly. They didn’t consult the Greens membership about that. Sarah Isaac had no say in the allocation of preferences in Barron River.

Had Ronan Lee managed to get his nose in front of the ALP candidate in Indooroopilly he may have carried the seat. We could then be having a conversation about whether that seat was worth the rupture in relationships with Bama on Cape York Peninsula. But we can’t have that conversation can we? Ronan Lee failed. The “Realos” strategy failed comprehensively, and the relationships/principles were sacrificed for nothing.

Now the Greens COULD use this opportunity to have a conversation about why we’ve failed to win a Senate or Parliamentary seat in Queensland. We COULD have a conversation about how to build grass-roots participation, electoral support and broader alliances. We COULD have a conversation about broadening the old Realo leadership and giving some other ideas a try.

But we’re not likely to do any of that. We’re much more likely to have a whispering campaign of malicious gossip personally attacking Noel Pearson, and anyone foolish enough to question the way the preference decision got made.

In that vein, I love the snide way you assert that exclusion from the Greens somehow suits me because it allows me to claim the “victim status”. (Poor me). I suspect that what really pisses you off is that I get to play even when Drew and Jon and Denis don’t want me to. What gives me a (small) voice in green politics is a thirty year record of participation and achievement that has won me a degree of public recognition and support. I’d like to be a Greens member because then I could contribute to analysis and decision-making BEFORE shitty decisions like this one get made.

Perhaps you should ask Drew and Jon what they’re so afraid of that they refuse to debate any of these issues in a public forum, and refuse to reveal or test any of their thinking or behaviour with Greens members, let alone “greenies” or other interested members of the public.

As for racism, I stand by what I said. The Wild Rivers legislation starts by identifying, for a new and comprehensive conservation regime, those riverine systems that have been managed successfully so far by Aboriginal people. That’s what makes them “Wild Rivers”. The key threats to Wild Rivers come from mining, the invasion of feral species and weeds, and intensive tourism development.

The mines at Weipa and Cape Flattery have been exempted from the legislation. The control of feral species and weeds has long been the responsibility of the Queensland government, which has largely failed to meet its responsibilities. Thank God for the Blackfellas whom we can push around while pretending do something useful. Blackfellas are bearing the brunt of state government legislation in ways they wouldn’t dare try with anyone else. That’s racism Syd, and it has the active support of Drew Hutton, Larissa Waters and Ronan Lee.

If you want a more detailed statement about Wild Rivers from Murrandoo Yanner, try,20867,21436812-2702,00.html

I appreciate that Gina Castalain may support some elements of Wild Rivers, and that she is an “emerging leader”. I know the family a little bit. I also know Neville Poochemunka, who’s Mayor in Aurukun, and was in the Australian last week with several established senior leaders, bitterly opposed to the legislation. He too is very proud of the charter vessel (which was assisted in funding by Balkanu).

If you want to demonstrate Aboriginal support for Wild rivers Syd, you need to be in touch with senior men and women from Cape York Peninsula, and you need to match the wide array of those seniors who’ve come out behind Noel Pearson.

Finally, I’d be happy to hear the details of your involvement with the Greens preference negotiations in the Queensland elections this year, and details of the manner in which Bama were consulted about Wild Rivers.

p.s. aren’t you embarrassed to be on the same side as Bryan Outlaw in this debate?

XXXX said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
activist1952 said...

I'm weighing in - with trepidation- to provide a few words of [my] truth and [my] wisdom, gained from more than 27 years living in FNQ; 17 yrs of which have I have dedicated huge chunks of my life, conscience of mind and at times, income, to activism in FNQ; involving TWS, CAFNEC, Kuranda Range Defenders; Friends of the Earth; Friends of Hinchinbrook; NQCC; Cairns Action Group; Save False Cape; Save Mona Mona, (have I remembered them all?). My origin in formal environmentalism is TWS (1992), when I was asked by Michael Winer to help set up the first TWS Cairns. To this day I remain an active TWS member (and now staffer) because they fulfill my need for an eNGO which is effective, inclusive , culturally and socially aware; honest and open, apolitical and more.

Along the way I have met many, many people – many inspirational and many dedicated; some slightly and others more than slightly, mad; those who were just passing through and wanted to be a part of the action; academics who feared for their careers if outspoken but were aghast at the sheer stupidity of ignoring natural constraints; quietly-spoken and spiritual elders from Cape York who opposed their lands being mined, sold off and otherwise despoiled; the list goes on. I have wanted to work with them all – to arrive at a common position or at least one those we could all “live with”; one that respected cultural, social and ecological needs and boundaries.

Why with trepidation? Sadly, along the way, I have also come to realize that there are some people, who, whilst believing in the same things as I do; cannot bear to allow others to interpret how those beliefs may be interpreted or implemented. Bryan (and his partner Margaret) are exemplars of this that I refer to. For this act of treason on my behalf, I expect an attack on some failing I have that I have forgotten about or how I am misguided in what I stand for. They are very good at the art of undermining those who would speak out. They remind me of those, and their tactics, that they rush to defend. How Interesting!

And yet; this was not always the case. In the mid 90s I very outspokenly supported Bryan and Margaret when CAFNEC refused them renewed membership based on certain accusations (I’m unsure of defamation laws here so won’t and don’t need, to go into details). I opposed their denied membership – even to the point of publicly transferring the raffle prize I won at the very meeting their membership was refused, to them. I truly believed that anyone with the same apparent ideals, could not be injurious to the cause – we just needed to sort it out. The years and events that followed, proved me wrong, although I hung on stubbornly for a very long time to this belief.

Sadly, Bryan and Margaret do not hold these same ideals close to heart as I have witnessed them systematically attempt to take down groups which, or individuals who, have opposed their ideologies or have not recognised them as the ANSWER. It reminds me of conversations with recent converts to religion. It doesn’t matter what question one asks, the answer is always a quote from the bible. Free-thinking is discouraged.

Oh dear. I haven’t even attempted to discuss the raft of inaccuracies contained within recent postings – I must have had some basic tenets to get off my chest first.

Bryan Law said...

Oh dear activist 1952, you appear to have left out any facts. And your identity. You've been very good at the personal gossip and attacks though - so I believe you're a TWS staffer.

Don't talk to me. Talk with those very quiet, spiritual Bama you say you know. Ask them how they feel about the Wild Rivers legislation.

activist1952 said...

sORRY - WHICH PART OF " To this day I remain an active TWS member (and now staffer) because they fulfill my need for an eNGO which is effective, inclusive , culturally and socially aware; honest and open, apolitical and more - DONT YOU UNDERSTAND?

Margaret Pestorius said...

Oh God. Am I being attacked for being Bryan's wife again!?? I haven't even piped up yet.

I'm sorry Di Horsburgh that I don't support the campaign - its nothing personal; its not that I don't support YOU.
I must have had 3 interactions with you, in 10 years. And one or two of those everyone can see publically on the Cairns Coev email list. [you'll have to join! around message number 2255] I wasn't the only one there with a position supporting Indigenous rights.

I didn't realise I had such a pervasive and evil influence on Cairns politics. I thought I spent the last 10 years having a baby, getting a degree, doing peace-work and going to Church. Thanks for setting me and everybody else straight regarding my true self and motivation.

I still can't trace the ideas supporting the Wild Rivers PROCESS. As Syd says - it would be great to have TWS representatives actually talk about the issues. Rebut the 'inaccuracies', set us straight about how it really happened, tell us who the Bama are that actually support the process etc. Engage in a public dialogue that goes back and forth publically.

I reckon Bryan's memory is one of the best around [though Bruce White is onto a few details there]. I'd be happy to hear rebuttal of details so we can rebuild a picture of what happened.

No doubt that keeping Cape York ecologically secure is an admirable 'objective'. I don't think that is anybody's concern. Good on you all for having that INTENT. But as we know 'intent' is not enough to guarantee 'right action'.

The concern that some of us hold, is where a process controlled by non-Indigenous Australians [govt, 'TGP' and TWS] overrides a process that includes and makes central Indigenous sovreignty and leadership. OK Syd maybe its not racism - maybe its CLASSISM! We have to ask - Why can't TWS and TGP get behind the organised entities on Cape York? Why can't TWS and TGP build alliances with people who have essentially the same goals? Why can't TWS an TGP build alliances with anybody [except Labor].

I agree that wise old ladies in the Cape want their Land kept pristine. But from what I understand they are sick of having other people set up a political process that excludes them. I'm with John on the inclusion thing. I'd go a step further though and suggest [without speaking for them] that Bama would prefer that they LEAD the process of protection on their Lands. At least they seem to keep articulating this. Murandoo Yanner has always been clear about this. [Whether or not he is 'for' or 'against' the legislation on HIS Lands.]

My bet is that some well meaning white knights heard whispers from wise-elders-in-distress that their Land was in danger from nasty elements. They wanted their land protected. So the white knights, shiny with skills and goodwill rode off on their horses to the big city to demand from the King a decree outlawing certain practices on the Land.
Meanwhile the wise elders in distress got organised and while chatting amongst themsleves realised they didn't want anyone saving them - much less the King who did not have great track record.
Several times they tried to communicate this to the lovely knights. But they had already devoted their lives to the quest and were to be undeterred. Onward they rode to the Kings palace ...blah blah blah...

I'm very nice really :)

activist1952 said...

Why oh why do Margaret and Bryan continualy act as if they are the voice of Indigenous Cape York. How weird.

Bryan Law said...

Gee Di, one more personal attack empty of facts. Please respond to the issues.

Cairns resident said...

said... Activist1952, as a Traditional Owner of Cape York, it is not weird that both Margaret and Bryan speak in support of Cape York Indigneious people. How weird of you to even raise that Question! Both Margaret and Bryan act within their democratic rights to ‘right a wrong’ and support their fellow Australians…

Simon Thorston, Second Beach said...

Is activist1952 Di Horsburgh of the The Wilderness Society Cairns campaign group?

Why do those opposed to any sensible debate hide away in the dark? I mean, Sir Joh aint round anymore and it makes for a level playing field wheh you talk like adults and offer different view points instead of fire offr insults.

Like the reset of the invisable Wilderness mob, Di Horsburgh you should be ashamed of yourself.

Jude Johnston said...

As with Brian, I don't always agree with Syd either. I am disappointed with the response so far from TWS members, nothing there other than throwing their toys out of the cot. However I think I will go down the path of Syd's post .........
How about the views expressed by Murrandoo Yanner?

"The majority of the people who aren't involved in that would rather have the sustainable rivers so we can continue as we have for thousands of years to draw our food and nourishment from those rivers, rather than see a few Aboriginal people financially benefit at the expense of the rest of us being left in a dust bowl".

Syd Walker said...

Hi again Bryan

What prompted me to respond to you was not so much your initial article as insinuations in the ensuing comments that the Green Party’s decision over the allocation of preferences at the last election cynically ‘betrayed’ indigenous people - and that the people responsible for the Greens’ decision, by extension, were guilty of ‘racism’.

Your follow-up comment spoke of your anger about what “TWS and a small cabal of Greens have done to Bama in what I consider to be a racist and anti-democratic manner.”

I don’t think that was fair comment, Bryan. Accusations of racism and cynical manipulation are serious claims that should be made, if at all, only when based on firm grounds.

Question: in the run-up to the election, did any of the indigenous groups ASK the Queensland Greens to allocate preferences in some other way to their eventual choice? Did the Cape York Land Council make such a request?

I don’t know the answer to the question myself, but think it unlikely that if such requests had been made, they wouldn’t be more common knowledge. If no requests were made, does Bryan expect members of the Green Party to be telepathic - or just to agree with his opinion - in order to avoid the slur of 'racism'? If, on the other hand, a request was made to the Greens requesting allocation of preferences away from the ALP (favouring the LNP), why was it not made in a more public manner?

I am delighted that some members of the LNP are showing themselves to be supporters of Aboriginal rights. Long may that continue.

However, it was far from obvious to the community as a whole, before the last State election, that the LNP’s policies on indigenous affairs were superior to the Labor Party’s from an indigenous perspective. That may be Bryan Law’s view. It may be Noel Pearson’s view. But surely others - black, white and brindle - are entitled to hold differing views without being accused of racism?

Bryan, you commented that it’s ironic I’m on ‘the same side’ as the person or persons who post here under the pseudonym of ‘Bryan Outlaw’. For the record, I’m not on the same side – and I’m surprised you consider yourself in the same game.

You are someone with the courage to speak your mind under your own name in public.

Who is ‘Bryan Outlaw’?

Bruce White said...

Hey all (above,

For any who may actually be concerned to look beyond the bickering about whether the internal wheelings and dealings of current green campaigners and the green party leaders .. and look instead to whether these processes have in fact produced best and most sustainable outcome:

i. for future Cape York Aboriginal/Green alliances, relationships, cooperation and trust over future dealings plus national and world heritage listings?

ii. for future long term 'survival' and 'resilience' of declared 'wild' river ecologies, ecosystems .. into a globally changing ..??

.. I draw your attention to, and note that Marcia Langton has written a pretty damning opinion peice in the Australian here:,,25318190-28737,00.html

It's all a bit of a sorry sight to see Aboriginal conservationists (such as Tania Major), Aboriginal academics (such as Marcia Langton), Aboriginal organisations (such as Balkanu and Cape York Land Council), and Aboriginal lawyers/politicians (such as Noel Pearson).. all identifying and turning Australian greens/conservationists into enemy number 1!

All this is indeed (as Brian Law has rightly stated) a long long way from what was once envisioned by the likes of Kevin Guy (Wilderness Society), Michael Wiener, Mark Horseman, Rosemary Hill (ACF).. and all those others who tried so hard, with such serious and solemn purpose, to forge a firm, long term alliance with Cape York's majority Aboriginal resident population .. to better secure the future of Cape York into the long term future

While I don't think anyone is likely to give much weight to anything an interested bystander may have to say .. looking at the current moves afoot:

i. Noel Pearson has once before moved rapidly and taken succesful legal action to overturn to overturn improper Queensland Government regulation of Aboriginal land and water rights

(Queensland Government decision to gazette the 1997 Wet Tropics Management Plan was overturned by Supreme Court Judicial review .. and had to be renegotiated)

ii. Noel Pearson and all those now aligned against greens/ conservationists are showing all the signs of again taking on the Queensland Government decision to declare wild rivers .. and from Maricia's article there is some prospect for another win

iii. all who may be involved and concerned about the future of Cape York's rivers (beyond how they are regulated in statute) .. may need now to think about doing some fancy footwork to redeem a little of past good will/works .. and positively position representatives for next round of (re)negotiations

For any above (or others) who may share concern and be willing to act .. I again recommend the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as just the tool needed, adopted by the Commonwealth Government just on time .. for green campaigners, party and organisations to take fancy step of publicly adopting and as framework for all future proceedings/negotiations ... accompanied perhaps by a Cape York Water Forum chaired/ facilitate/hosted by an appropriate, agreed/agreeable international organisation ??

All this being just some observations, comments, thoughts and suggestions from an interested bystander striving to see forward into our shared globally changing future!! :-)

Sue E said...

For goodness sake people, enough of these personal attacks. Everyone sees or perceives things differently or holds views that may be different from someone else. That’s life and it does not make one right or wrong. Before you attack someone ask yourself just what is it that you do yourself to make a difference or try and change things. I don’t know Bryan Law or others personally and while I may not agree with their views they have my admiration for at least trying in their own way to make a difference. Can you say the same?

Direct your anger where it belongs - the state government and be eternally grateful for the opportunity this blog affords you to have your say or share ideas relatively free from censorship, editing or ridicule.

activist1952 said...

Here I am on Easter Sunday trying to work out how to change my blogger name so important people like Simon wont think I'm hiding. Damn I thought everyone knew me -lol. I signed in to this blog yesterday and up popped an old username Activist 1952. So in case this doesnt work, Signing off, Regards, Di Horsburgh.

Unknown said...

I'd like to point out a very serious issue with this blog.

My 'posting' was not actually made on this blog but in a personal email to Bryan Law. The email has been altered and posted to make it appear as though it was written by me in the context of the above discussion.

I have emailed the moderator of this website and Bryan Law to determine exactly who did this, as this is an extremely sloppy and serious issue.

My email was not written as a posting and has therefore been taken out of context.

For the record, I did not immediately point out Bryan's hysterial and misinformed innaccuracies because a) TWS has corrected Bryan many times but he continues to peddle misinformation b) a colleague is preparing a piece for this blog with a full response and context, which I expect and hope will be published as a new posting c) i am actually on 'holidays'.

I will not post Bryan's return email to me but will point out that he made the very serious allegation that TWS and "a small cabal of Greens" are rascist.

Unfortunately this is indicative of the calibre of debate of those crying foul about Wild Rivers, and reflects the utter lack of understanding of any facts about TWS or the history of the Wild Rivers debate in Queensland.

One need only read The Australian today (,25197,25325768-5006786,00.html)
or research a tad on the internet (for example
to understand that there is far more to this debate than the false green vs black dichotomy that has been constructed and swallowed by many.

I look forward to a more informed debate when my colleague posts a response as a new posting on this website.


Glenn Walker

activist1952 said...

I had some time on my hands and I started wondering who are these people- many of whom I've never heard of before? People who have never called me, as community campaigner, to ask anything about TWS, Wild Rivers, Indigenous programs and relationships; or about anything actually. The same people who are now so vocal about me, the organisation I work for, Wild Rivers, TWS’s Indigenous relationships etc etc, and some of whom were very quick to criticise me for not being someone they could instantly recognise. So I thought I would investigate a little.

Well, Simon Thorston, Jude Johnston, John Kuranda; Bryan Outlaw and Cairns resident - I have no idea who you are, or even you Sue E. I googled and white pages referenced you - but nothing or so many (J Johnston) that it’s impossible to know which one. Bruce White, if it wasn’t for that fact that I met you through land rights workshops organised by The Wilderness Society in about 1993 (probably one of the 1st non-Indigenous initiated land rights workshops ever to be held in FNQ) with the Rainforest Aboriginal Network (RAN), I wouldn’t know who you are either. Same with you Bryan and Margaret– no live link. Shame on you all?? My bloggername at least is a live link – which I’ve now updated to conform with my recommendations.

The ones I mention are not live links. Actually I wouldn’t have had a problem with this - until others raised it as an issue for them, that they wanted to know stuff about the blogger -and yes, well now I can u/stand that. It’s important to know who is saying what and why - unless of course one feels totally intimidated by others or simply don’t want to own their own statements.

The only other person with a live link is Mike Moore. Love ya Syd – but hey your name link took me to another website about Bush and 9/11 ! So.. I’ve updated my profile for blog readers and call on you others to do the same. Besides, once you know my name - google does the rest for you. I haven’t given you favourite movies or quotes – yet!

Do you think Cairnsblog should introduce a LAW where you MUST declare your interest in the issues being debated?

Because Mike although you say No Anon blogs will be accepted, anyone can make up a name to hide behind – or as I’ve just noted – use a name but provide absolutely no further information. Doesn’t mean a damn thing really.

If I have made any errors in the above, please feel free to crucify me.

Activist 1952 aka Di Horsburgh

Jude Johnston said...

Gee Di, I'm not anyone important enough to consider having a "link" so you could find me, I am in the phone book though. I do use my real name and if you had been visiting this Blog you would have seen that I do post quite often and you would also have realised I live at Clifton Beach and that would've narrowed down the phone book search. I don't know you either but thought that both you and the fellow that wanted his personal property, i e photo, removed were being a bit precious. Both you and Photo Man have identified yourselves as being involved with The Wilderness Society and I was merely wondering if you were going to debate this issue or continue with the 2 year old tanty thing, OTY.

Bruce White said...

Hey Di .. I am glad we've met and you know me!

My first posting did have live link to a webpage which includes small amount of info, including photo and phone number .. though I admit it need's upgrading.

Otherwise, would be glad to discuss possibilities and value of TWS publicly committing to principles and articles contained in UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples .. and would also be glad to explore and assist with a Far North Queensland / Cape York Water Forum, if such an offer is of any interest?

Until such a time .. I am, and remain but an interested bystander who has actively identified himself on this Blog!

margaret pestorius said...

Two more contributions from TWS campaigners [Glenn and Di] without any actual clarifications, rebuttals, or corrections regarding the Wild Rivers Issues [or Process thereof].

Please we beg you - tell us - many questions ..Why was the consultation process truncated? How did that happen in relation to preference swaps? What are the imminent threats to Cape York [that required the truncation of the process] that this legislation actually addresses? How is the sovreignty of Indigenous Trad Owners to be supported in cases of conflict? Why were the young leaders of the IEF not involved and consulted? WHich TO's do TWS talk to that supported the process of truncating the consultation? Why were the Aboriginal people thinking one thing regarding a process and then delivered another? Why did Aboriginal people not lead the process from the start - what is the hurry? There are many questions to answer that may illuminate the discussion - please start ...

I like Jude aren't really important enough for a link-whatever.

My interest is hereby declared: to support Indigenous people as an ally to the best of my abiliity. I am in individual. I do not pretend to speak on their behalf - but as I said last year on the Coev List - I try to raise a conversation amongst white 'greenies' around these issues so that we can understand each other and so WE can get more flexible in, and smart about, how Aboriginal people are involved in the leadership of environmental/ Land campaigns. My accountabilities lie in relation to the white people who make decisions that may effect Indigenous people.

I have raised these issues for conversation before and while there is usually a bit of a discussion there has been little from the professional 'campaigners' who may I say tend to be a bit defensive....

I do not support the WR campaign because I have never been given any reasons to and I don't like the PROCESS of the campaign. I don't think it is helpful that TWS leads/initiates a campaign about Cape York Land because I think it undermines Aboriginal Sovreignty in Cape York. To hold this opinion is my free and democratic right.

I am surprised that I get so misrepresented for holding a dissenting opinion. Is it that I must stay quiet in the 'Green Movement' if I hold a different opinion? Why is it so insufferable that I raise a different point of view. I truly don't understand. I know many people who share this view. Many who identify as both 'green' AND as allies to Indigenous people. Cairns is crawling with them - as is Alice Springs. How will we move forward if we don't talk together.

BTW, Glenn, I think the article in the Australian today is a beat up to keep the story going till there is a real new development. It doesn't say anything that we didn't already know. Terry O'Shane is very measured - That he, like many Aboriginal people, support control of their Land and interests for ecologically sustainable means. This is a view also expressed by Noel on the ABC Breakfast last monday morning. So I'm not sure it helps your'case'... except it may serve to drive wedges between Indigenous leadership [a common practice by The Australian]. I have an opinion that this is an unhelpful device. But I can see that it may helps the TWS rhetoric regarding Indigenous leadership being 'divided on the issue'.

May I remind you that the biggest threats to Cape York are currently the mine at Weipa and the feral animals and plants [ ] Indigenous people have kept the Land relatively pristine to this point. The mine is excluded from the legislation. there are already many other layers of legislation that cover Land issues on Cape York. Is that not correct? - please correct ...

Rebut, clarify, synthesise... but please keep on track with the issues.

John, Kuranda said...

Somewhere along the way this discussion appears to have strayed from rational comment on Bryan Law’s original article to a series of personal attacks. But despite all of that, I personally have gained greater insight into the issues and I thank all other blog contributors for that.

I can understand, and appreciate, the passion for safeguarding the uniqueness of Cape York; contributors from the Wilderness Society have my admiration for their commitment and zeal. This is apparent from bloggers and the website.

But I also see why the traditional owners of Cape York and their advocates (and I guess I am in this camp) are against the Wild Rivers process. On Friday 3rd April 2009, the Australian Government announced a reversal of the previous decision and endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. This was a major step along the path of reconciliation and nation building. Jenny Macklin, the Indigenous Affairs Minister said "We do this in the spirit of resetting the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and building trust."

Yet on the same day, Anna Bligh announced that the Governor-in-Council had agreed to the gazettal of the additional rivers. If nothing else, the announcement was a tad ill-timed. These two announcements gave radically disparate message to Indigenous people in Cape York.

As stated by Les Malezer, Chairman of the Global Indigenous Caucus (13/09/07) the Declaration is “about co-operation and partnership to ensure that all individuals, regardless of race or beliefs, are truly equal and that all peoples are respected and allowed to develop.”

From my perspective, it would appear that now that the Australian Government has affirmed its support for the Declaration, it, plus the various levels of state and local governments need to frame their conduct within what essentially are the terms of references contained within the Declarations forty-six articles. And personally I do not think that that is such a bad or wrong ideal.

And if that means going back to the drawing board with certain pieces of contentious legislation such as Wild Rivers then so be it. How the Declaration will be actioned, how it will be integrated with existing legislation etc will be, I think, the litmus test for the future of reconciliation in this country.

Perhaps we should all have a read of the Declaration – you can get it at

For the record, I am an active local member of the LNP living in my piece of paradise in Kuranda – in an environment that I treasure. I support its preservation for future generations.

I have also been involved with Indigenous peoples for almost 20 years working with them in areas such as general health, sexual health matters, economic development etc – admittedly not in Cape York, but in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley’s.

Bryan Law said...

Glenn, we don’t have a private personal relationship, and you e-mailed me because my writing was published on Cairns Blog. Anything you have to say to me is public. I agreed with Mike’s decision to edit and post your e-mail as part of the discussion.

If you like some day I’ll discuss racism with you at length. It’s a complex issue, and it’s usually made even more complicated by intersections of class, gender and privilege. That’s why you failed to understand what I said, which was that some Greens and TWS leaders acted “in what I consider to be a racist and anti-democratic manner”. Not ARE racist, but acted in a racist manner. Racism is often so entrenched in institutional behaviour that we fail to see it.

Ask yourself how it is that you can get really upset by the supposed infringement of your European-created “intellectual property rights” – a photograph of the Wenlock River – but are so casual about the truncation of land rights enjoyed by Traditional Owners of the actual Wenlock River. The privileging of your own abstract rights over Aboriginal substantive rights is an example of biased (racist or classist?) thinking (in my opinion).

My wife, Margaret Pestorius leads out family in reconciliation matters and indigenous relations, and since 1996 one leg of our policy has been to interrupt attacks on Aboriginal people whenever we see them. Margaret’s friends, and public leaders such as Noel Pearson, have identified the Wild Rivers legislation as a big organised attack on Aboriginal Sovereignty. Now there is an unaccountable whispering campaign among greenies in Queensland that Noel Pearson is a bullying black man, wanting to profit from mining and development. (Lies)

I’d like people to notice the similarity between the attacks on Noel, and the attacks on Margaret and I. We are scurrilous (possibly criminal) despoilers of all that is good and true, and our bullshit has been misproven by TWS time and again, so current organisers don’t have to say anything.

There are only thing two things missing. A fact (give us a reference to any past discussion between me and TWS). Or any response to Wild Rivers criticism, be it information, advocacy, or a willingness to problem solve.

Bruce White has challenged you to abide by the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. We can re-negotiate the Wild Rivers legislation to meet the UN standard, and get Noel Pearson back to work on community development issues.

I believe that John from Kuranda can achieve positive LNP attention for successful resolution of this issue. Perhaps we need to broaden our political negotiations.

How about it?

Syd Walker said...

Well, I for one was misled into thinking that Glenn had posted an abrasive comment directly to this article. It came through to me as insulting to readers in general.

Now I know better. I apologize to Glenn for my earlier comment.

FWIW, I don't think it's appropriate to post a comment under someone's else's name, even to quote their exact words. Context is crucial.

Steven Nowakowski said...

My understanding is that TWS have spent the last four to five years talking with indigenous peoples and their leaders within councils and community groups about the Wild Rivers legislation. My simple understanding from what I have heard and read is that the only people/organisation against the legislation is the Cape York Institute (set up by Howard) and run by Pearson.

I also understand that the Wild Rivers legislation will not prohibit economic development for anyone. In fact it will create many sustainable jobs into the future as well as immediate ranger jobs. The only thing that this legislation will stop is large scale water extraction for industries such as cotton and it will also stop any large scale or medium scale dam or weir proposals.

Whether you are black or white surely this is good.? It seems like Pearson and co. would like to see unsustainable water use in the Cape.?

This issue is not about discrimination or racism, it is about common sense.

Margaret Pestorius said...

Good on ya Steve for having a go at addressing the issues. I applaud it. Yay, finally some assertions.

However, I have to say again that the issue is not about protection of Rivers. The issue is about who decides what about LAND in Cape York.

Of course the ranger jobs are great - and some have been promised by the Commonwealth anyway [ ].

And ranger jobs SHOULD have been organised by the State Govt years ago anyway. They have been requested over and over by Traditional Owners. They can still easily be organised irrespective of the legislation. They are being organised as part of other negotiations regarding Land in CY.

Yes people do want their land protected - but NOT at the expense of sovereignty. This is the idea that I have heard from a range of TO's: Shaun Edwards-Kalk - a Kokobarrin man from Kowanyama has campaigned extensively on the issue
And Tanya Major
And Vicky Davis Jenkins [President of the IEF]
And Gertrude Davies
And Mayor Pootchemunka.
And the board of the Cape York Land Council ...

So I suspect your remark about Mr Pearson - who I remind you fhas ought for Indigenous Rights in a variety of ways for over 20 years [and he is only 44] is not entirely fair. You seem to align him with John Howard as a way of denigrating him. This is a device that assists in building Noel as 'personal villain' in the saga. And its not true anyway.

There was money for a consultation process. And that process was STILL underway - it was truncated -seemingly for preference deals. If this is untrue lets hear about it. I haven't heard it denied yet. If its true I think it is unethical.

How many immediate ranger positions have been put in place to date?

Bruce White said...

Steve (and others)

I think what Bryan was recalling above (and what I too was recalling) is that many green campaigners have in the past placed high premium on the ultimate value of forging strong, reliable, and resilient alliances with large sections of Cape York's majority Aboriginal population (ie an alliance to last into the long term future).

[I wonder, for instance, after all those years of the Wilderness Society dicussing Wild Rivers with the Aboriginal peoples of Cape York .. what kinds of numbers of those Aboriginal peoples were invited and/or are now members of the Society?)

What I understand is being suggested is that far more can be done to truly secure a sustainable future of the Cape's 'wild' rivers by forging strong, trusting, reliable green-black alliances .. than will ever be achieved by statutory fiat from above (or within backroom political deals)??

As I understand it, for instance, it seems pretty certain that over the next 30 to 70 years most of the declared rivers, lagoons, wetlands etc can be expected to progressively dry up (predicted climatic change) .. and salt up (predicted see level rises).

(See some regional forecasting)

I fear no level of statutory decree can prohibit a halt to this kind of very real threat to the very natural values/ biodiverse ecologires the current declarations purport to preserve and protect?

(Such 'threats' don't even rate a mention in the legislation nor the declarations!)

The Wild Rivers Act 2005 and the associated declarations do not of themselves establish a single Aboriginal ranger position nor ecotourist venture.. all they do prohibit, limit and/or regulate primarily Aboriginal future use?!

I recently had brief conversation with Michael Winer (who founded the NQ Wilderness Society office and greatly assisted the orginal Starke campaign) .. and he observed that some green groups/campaigners may have just been in too much of a hurry and got a bit too greedy for quick outcome?

Green preference deals, statutory fiat, quicker outcomes, and poisoning green-Cape Aboriginal relations for years to come .. all, as Bryan Law seems to ask, at what cost?

Would be glad to discuss/talk further .. but otherwise, still just an interested (and concerned) bystander!

Steven Nowakowski said...

Firstly, in terms of Greens preferences for Labor in return for Wild Rivers is rubbish. The ALP I assume nominated a further three wild rivers because they did well at the election and I suppose they considered that they had a mandate to nominate a further three rivers. Wild Rivers were totally off the radar at the last election for the Greens at both local and state level. The ALP acted alone on this.

Secondly, I didn't mean to degenerate Noel Pearson, however on this issue I don't think he represents the majority of his people in Cape York.

Thirdly, if Bryan and Margaret are so keen to find out what TWS have done then go and see them. I don't expect them to waste my membership dollars blogging on this site for a handful of readers.

Fourthly, it is not the job of TWS to liaise with traditional owners and residents of Cape York about Wild Rivers legislation. It is supposed to be done by the State Govt. The State Govt. has been so negligent and irresponsible that TWS has taken up the slack by doing their job for them and liaising with Cape York residents and TO’s. Please remember it has never been TWS’s responsibility to educate the public about this legislation.

Wendy said...

To all other bloggers,

I am a uni student and discovered this blog during the course of research recently, and frankly I’m astounded at the accusations been made on this site. To state my affiliations, I am a member of the Wilderness Society (along with a number of other organisations) and avid supporter for the protection of the environment and the reconciliation process!!!

The only comment I would like to make is: have any of you people bothered to read the Wild Rivers Legislation on the NRW website??? I thought if you were going to make public comment that it would be the first thing you would do. But clearly, John, Bryan, Bruce and Margaret haven’t bothered with that…but have joined on the band wagon, of shooting down any good conversation outcome that preserves amazing wilderness for future generations both black and white. Something these people seem to forget is that mine prospecting doesn’t wait for anyone so picking up on a comment made by Margaret why the rush…because companies like Cape Alumina don’t wait for anyone…soon there won’t be any Wilderness left to argue about and as Bruce aptly points out there are a whole host of problems on the way that need solutions…

NRW site:


I ask ... why do the Wilderness Society need to explain the negotiations around the Wild Rivers Legislation, they weren’t running them!! Talk to your local member or better still read the NRW website. Why can’t conservation groups lobby the government? Can’t they have their say on how the environment is managed? To me the Wilderness Society’s aims seems very clear, read their website:
Taking a WildCountry “big picture” approach to conservation, The Wilderness Society is supporting the development of a globally recognised Indigenous Conservation Estate on Cape York Peninsula.
Hear! Hear! To what Steven N said, and straight from the horse’s mouth (NRW website):

In a 2004 election committment, the Queensland Government identified the following river basins on Cape York Peninsula as potential wild river areas:
• the Jardine, Ducie, Wenlock, Watson, Archer, Holroyd and Coleman river basins on the western Peninsula
• the Jackey Jackey, Olive-Pascoe, Lockhart, Stewart and Jeannie river basins on the eastern Peninsula.
To give others who like myself may be uninformed on the process, this is how long the State government consults for: 5 months….
And on look another river mentioned and not a sign of an election, who will you blame the listing of this river on… ooohhhh, its such a big secret…I wonder if Noel Pearson has cottoned onto the fact that this is the next river the government is looking at…
“Under the Wild Rivers Act, the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy can propose a river for declaration. The Act does not automatically declare or list any river as wild, but outlines the process for doing so.
On 10 December 2008, the Department of Environment and Resource Management released for public comment a proposal to declare the following wild river area:
• Proposed Wenlock Basin Wild River Area
Submissions on this close at 5pm on 29 May 2009.”
John from Kuranda what a load of hogwash, that the tourism venture on the Aurukun lakes would be in jeopardized, this is exactly the sort of business the Wild Rivers act facilitates and enables.

Please, please tell me how does the Wild Rivers act stop indigenous rights, affect Native Title or limit economic development??? Bruce, how does it possibly contravene the recent Indig. Rights Declaration? Supporters of Noel Pearson, please give me some insight into all the rhetoric, everything I have read from him doesn’t state what it is about the Act he is opposed to….All the things he says won’t be able to go ahead are untrue…it does allow for sustainable economic development…just not broad-scale clearing, damming or mining!!!

An unashamed greenie,


Margaret P said...

Wendy, Great that you are an unashamed Greenie. Me too. I can pull out a few credentials - lectured in socio environmentalism at the uni, been arrested on blockades, got solar panels, ride a bike.
Last year, I worked in Aurukun and three times I tried to submit housing applications for people for houses in Cairns. I have two degrees and, you know, I couldn't get it right. I couldn't actually get the correct paper work accepted by the Department of Housing. I asked the people on the end of the phone line [they had no worker or office in Aurukun] if they thought that may be a barrier to people's aspirations for housing. They said there was nothing they could do to help. Sorry. Try filling out this new form and getting another piece of identification. Bye.

Yep Aboriginal people may be able to apply for permits through the WR Legislation to do what they want on their Land. But my bet is in some cases they may not be up to the paper work [I wasn't] AND why should they?? It is afterall their land. If it was your freehold you'd be barking mad at having to file more paper work to do stuff on your LAND.

Tell us about your experience working in Cape York? Do you or Mr Seelig or Mr Schneiders or Ms Hosborough have any idea how hard it is to deal with bureaucracy from Lockhart River or Pormpuraaw or Kowanyama?

Again I applaud the work done with the Wenlock TO. It shows it can be done.

John, Kuranda said...

Margaret P,

I totally agree with your comments alluding to red-tape as a barrier to Indigenous – well Indigenous anything. Sure there may be opportunities for enterprise, but yes the complexity of the paperwork will be there in abundance – and probably will change several times. Whilst working with Aboriginal communities in Central Australia a few years ago, I was asked by NT Government to provide an acquittal for a National Heritage Trust grant of over $150K. I asked for a copy of the acquittal form. Seems the form in the original grant was no more. In the end it was suggested to me that a photo of a few trees in a straight line was sufficient. The community was astounded. I was embarrassed. The point of that story is that white Australia has created systems of governance and bureaucracy that do inhibit Indigenous belief in the soundness and honesty of the system. And if you don’t believe you, won’t trust or use a system.

Margaret, the fact that communities are isolated for months on end seems lost to the majority of people here in Cairns. The Bruce Highway gets cut for a few days and it’s a supermarket crush and the threat of eminent famine. And I don’t know if it’s your experience Margaret, but everyone in the bureaucracy either seems to be acting in a position, or is completely wet behind the ears. So the rules change, so the story changes.

And we, the white Australians of this country, have the gall to say that Indigenous Australia is dysfunctional!

By the way Margaret, we may be on differrent planes when it comes to general politics, but I reckon we would enjoy a good natter with each other.

Mark Horstman said...

Dear Bryan, the history behind all this is byzantine, and your memory is sound. I'm deeply disturbed by how things are turning out. My practical involvement in Cape York Peninsula ended when I left Cairns and the ACF in the late 90s, apart from occasional contact with local stalwarts. But my work in the Kimberley since then makes me wonder if the developing indigenous-environmental partnership there will be tested by the onset of gas-fed industrialisation, especially if the vision of a "green-black alliance" is trashed in CYP. Or is it? Hard to tell from the big smoke. The vision (so last century now?) was that Aboriginal people assert their rights to land and sea by taking charge of the environmental management and development of their country. That was the point then, as it remains now. Stay well, Mark Horstman