SPEECH TO THE WUTHATHI NATIVE TITLE DETERMINATION & CELEBRATION

SPEECH TO THE WUTHATHI NATIVE TITLE DETERMINATION & CELEBRATION

CAIRNS CONVENTION CENTRE

WEDNESDAY, 29 APRIL 2015

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I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to elders past and preset.

I acknowledge the distinguished and acknowledged Traditional Owners of the land which today’s decision is about,  the Wuthathi people, of the land which we are celebrating today.

Your honour, it’s a privilege to be here.

At the moment, I’m not in charge of anything. A while ago, I was in charge of the environment.

One of the greatest moments I had was when I was given permission by Wuthathi elders to go to what the rest of Australia know as Shelburne Bay.

I still have images on my walls in Parliament House where people look at them and ask ‘why is everyone in t-shirts and shorts walking through the snow?’

In Cape York I did something different to what is your instinct when you are a government minister.

To say: 'Even though I’m at the Cabinet table technically in charge of a whole lot of things, I have no right to be the one making the decision over this land.'

It was the first time in the world it had been done.

We said, not just to the Wuthathi but to the entire Cape: ‘If there’s ever going to be a World Heritage Listing, you hold the pen, you draw the map. It’s your land, it’s your decision.’

For the period I was Minister, issues of land title, were unresolved, and people understandably wanted to get to today before they made further decisions.

One of the senior men who was with me that day, when I asked: ‘How often to be you get back here?” He said to me very simply: ‘Mate, I’ve never left.'

That is an understanding and connection that makes this clear to me: if at some point there are decisions about natural values, cultural values or World Heritage or permanent protection that even future Governments can’t get to, the decisions on that must be yours. 

As Traditional Owners now at law, your role should be made patently clear to every politician in Australia and on earth.

The decision made today into the future establishes where the ownership has been forever into the past.

You will be viewed for centuries to come as the ancestors who were in charge today, just as your ancestors were in charge yesterday.

One of my greatest privileges was to be given permission to leave some of my footprints there on your land.

One of my greatest privileges in Opposition has been simply to be here among you in this room today.

Congratulations on achieving something which in fact was always true.