A ground-breaking partnership between Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council and Natural Carbon, will see early season burning of over 13 000 square kilometres of Cape York savanna country using traditional burning practices.

The agreement is supported by Olkola Traditional Owners and the respective traditional landholders from Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council. Early season burning will enable the organisations to enter into the carbon market through the commercial joint venture.

Michael Ross, Chairman of Olkola Aboriginal Corporation said the choice to establish a carbon business is a major step forward and means a great deal to the Olkola people.

“Now we have this opportunity, it is something we have to get started – when I’m too old or my children are too old, the younger generations will be managing the land. It gives us an opportunity to do things in a way that looks after country, in a way we have always talked about” he said.

The Olkola people are the Traditional Owners of approximately one million hectares of land in southern central Cape York Peninsula. Presently their land holdings include the Glen Garland Pastoral Lease and the underlying tenure of Alwal National Park through a Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land (CYPAL) agreement.

Soon, five other former pastoral leases will be re-acquired by Olkola and the combined land holdings will total more than 800,000 hectares. This will make Olkola one of the largest non-government landholders in the region.

Both the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have directly assisted Olkola through the provision of funding for the acquisition of land and with the completion of the Queensland Government’s tenure resolution program, the Olkola people look forward to returning to country permanently.

The savanna burning project presents a major step forward in creating sustainable livelihoods for remote communities. Amanda Hogbin, CEO of Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, said viable economic opportunities on remote Aboriginal lands in Cape York are limited.

“Entering the carbon market will provide an income to undertake land management and facilitate other economic opportunities to support returning to country” she said.

Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council CEO, Edward Natera said the Pormpuraaw Land and Sea Management Rangers conduct an annual burning program across the Shire which protects the intact, unique biodiversity and cultural landscapes of homelands, and protects outstations from wildfire. “Our Council and our community see savanna burning for carbon income generation as a key part of building a stronger future for our peoples, and to build jobs to support our long term caring for our traditional lands” said Mr Natera.

Natural Carbon is the carbon farming service provider, working with Olkola Aboriginal Corporation and Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council for this initiative. Phillip Toyne, a director of Natural Carbon, is very excited about the project.

“Savanna burning for carbon credits works by conducting early dry season burns in planned mosaics across the country. This results in the prevention of large late season wildfires, responsible for substantial carbon emissions. The difference between emissions from these late season fires to early season burns is what can be traded in the carbon marketplace, under Federal Government Legislation” said Mr Toyne.

“We are excited to be working closely with each community, with them providing on ground ranger burning programs, and Natural Carbon helping with the regulatory compliance, and with the sale of carbon credits” he said. Olkola Aboriginal Corporation’s Michael Ross said preventing wildfire was just the start.

“We can then look after cultural sites, weed and feral animal control and other environmental values. If we can look after country and work with our neighbours to manage fire we are moving in the right direction” said Mr Ross.

Above: Elder Freddy Tyore underaking early burns on his homeland at Pormpuraaw.

Photo by Pormpuraaw Land & Sea Management