Bid to add Cape York to World Heritage List

Wuthathi Country Tannin Stained Perched Lake Cape York Queensland. | Newseel
A tannin-stained perched lake in Wuthathi Country in Queensland's Cape York Peninsula. | Photo: Supplied by Queensland Government

The first steps have been taken to add parts of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula to the World Heritage List.

The Federal and Queensland governments, working with traditional owners, have nominated the Cultural Landscapes of Cape York Peninsula to Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said Tentative Listing was the first step in the years-long World Heritage nomination process.

Other Australian areas already on the World Heritage List include the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, K’gari (Fraser Island), Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the Wet Tropics of Queensland, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Minister Plibersek said the 120,000sqkm of Cape York Peninsula was shaped by a rich complex natural environment and tens of thousands of years of Traditional Owner beliefs, customs and practices.

“Rock art can be found across Cape York Peninsula, including Quinkan Country which detail the beliefs, practices and connection to Country of Traditional Owners for millennia. The paintings include spirit beings, men and women, dingos, macropods, echidnas, birds, reptiles, fish, tracks, yams,” she said.

Minister Plibersek said the cultural landscapes were covered with exceptional areas of savanna, remnant rainforest, wetlands containing unique river systems.

“The Peninsula is home to 18.5 percent of Australian plant species, despite only being 3 percent of continental landmass.

“The landscapes are also home to over 300 threatened species including the green sawfish, Cape York rock wallaby, and southern cassowary.”

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said Australia was home to just 20 World Heritage Areas and five of those were in Queensland.

“I want iconic places like the Cape to be protected for future generations.”

Areas included in the Tentative List submission are:

  1. Alwal National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land)
  2. KULLA (McIlwraith Range) National Park (CYPAL)
  3. Ma’alpiku (Restoration Island) National Park (CYPAL)
  4. Olkola National Park (CYPAL)
  5. Oyala Thumotang National Park (CYPAL)
  6. Quinkan Country
  7. Wuthathi (Shelburne Bay) National Park (CYPAL)

A full World Heritage Nomination would not result in a boundary over the whole of Cape York Peninsula but was expected to be a series of disconnected areas, that are included in a serial World Heritage property.

Learn more about World Heritage areas and the Tentative Lists.

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Rock art in Cape York. | Newsreel
Rock art in Quinkan country in Queensland's Cape York Peninsula. | Photo: Supplied by Queensland Government.