December 7 marks the 25th year Fraser Island has been inscribed on the World Heritage List – a significant achievement that Wildlife Queensland together with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) and Department of National Parks Sport and Racing (NPSR) wish to acknowledge. The Butchulla People, the Traditional Owners, EHP and NPSR extend an open invitation to the community to help celebrate this milestone over the coming months.
In August 1974, Australia ratified the World Heritage Convention, with Fraser Island or K’gari inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992, becoming Queensland’s 4th World Heritage property listed. The Great Barrier Reef, Gondwana Rainforests and Wet Topics of Queensland were listed earlier. Australian Fossil Mammal sites–Riversleigh was the last property in Queensland, listed in 1994.
Interest in the protection of Fraser Island or K’gari as it is known by the Butchulla People started in the late 1960s. The real battle commenced and rapidly gained momentum when the renowned conservationist Dr John Sinclair AO founded Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) in 1971.
FIDO’s campaign aimed to stop sand mining leases and logging on the island. The campaign went to the High Court twice during the 1970s and eventually, on 31st December 1976, all sand mining on Fraser Island ceased. Logging did not cease until 1991.
Fraser Island’s natural features have been recognised as internationally significant since the island’s World Heritage listing back in 1992, where it was inscribed under three separate criteria– vii, iii and ix. The Outstanding Universal Value of the island is recognised in its ancient sand dune systems (ongoing geological and biological processes), its spectacular forests and freshwater lakes (superlative natural phenomena) and with over 250km of clear sandy beaches, strikingly coloured sand cliffs, and spectacular blowouts found nowhere else on Earth (exceptional natural beauty).
The Butchulla people are the Traditional Owners of Fraser Island– K’gari is their name for Fraser Island, which idyllically translates to ‘paradise’. They continue to hold strong links with their land and sea country, with their rights and interests officially recognised following their Native Title determination in October 2014. K’gari’s sand dunes are also some of the oldest in the world, and over half of the world’s perched freshwater lakes are also found here.
Continuation of the Butchulla custodianship and ongoing collaboration with QPWS is critical to the conservation of Aboriginal culture and preservation of the island’s values.
Day-to- day management and protection of the World Heritage property is carried out under the provisions of the Nature Conservation Act 1992, the Recreation Area Management Act 2006 and the Sustainable Planning Act 2009. Australia’s World Heritage properties are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). World Heritage properties are recognised as a matter of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act’s assessment and approval provisions.
Currently two Fraser Island World Heritage advisory committees exist, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), and the Community Advisory Committee (CAC). These committees provide advice to State and Australian Government Ministers responsible for World Heritage. This includes matters relating to the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage of the Fraser Island World Heritage property from the viewpoint of the Traditional Owners, scientific and local community. Currently Wildlife Queensland has close links to these advisory committees.
Wildlife Queensland has been involved lending support since the beginning of the battle for K’gari and is still actively involved today. Currently Wildlife Queensland is advocating the extension to the Fraser Island (K’gari) World Heritage Area and supporting the Butchulla People in achieving their aspirations. Should you support the extension to Fraser Island to include the Cooloola Section of the Great Sandy National park and other surrounding areas that play a key role in telling the story of the area write to your local member and the Minister for the Environment and Minister for National Parks when announced stating your support and advocating action. There is a need for the Government to hear from the broader community. Conservation organisations alone do not always win the day.
Join with Wildlife Queensland to celebrate the anniversary. We have been informed that a series of events will be taking place throughout 2018. Check out the Department of the Environment and Heritage Protection Fraser Island 25th Anniversary webpage for more.