STRADDIE NATIVE TITLE CRISIS BRINGS TRAUMA TO MANY: SO WHO OR WHAT IS QYAC? The state of affairs on North Stradbroke Island of late have been such that some traditional owners has been considerably ‘traumatised’. The issue revolves around the recent granting of native title land rights to the QYAC group in what came as a shock and a surprise to many. And for those not intimately involved, the organisation itself is somewhat of a mystery. The Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) is a Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC). QYAC was created in 2011 under the Native Title Act, which requires native title groups to create a Prescribed Body Corporate to manage their recognised native title rights and interests. The organisation has been in the headlines of late because of the shock ‘gazettal’ by the Queensland Labor Government of 25 parcels of land totalling 94 hectares in the villages of Dunwich, Amity and Point Lookout. The land gazettal comes with ‘strings’; calling for the ‘rubber stamping’ by Redland City Council of major rezoning areas of the land which will make the value of the land escalate into the ‘millions’. Council can do nothing about the gazette or the rezoning. Whilst QYAC are delighted with the outcome, there are many in the island community who are not; even from some aboriginal traditional owners, claiming they have been ‘kept in the dark’. So just who or what is the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation? To find out, the Friendly Bay Islander has gone to several sources, which did not include QYAC as they did not reply to our requests. In a reply to criticism about being secretive and more, we referred to the QYAC annual report. We discovered, amongst other things, that QYAC is entitled to: possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land; live and be present on the area, including accessing and traversing the area; take, use, share and exchange Traditional National Resources and seawater for personal, domestic and non-commercial communal purposes; conduct burial rites; conduct ceremonies; teach on the area about the physical and spiritual attributes of the area; and to maintain places of importance and areas of significance to the native title holders under their traditional laws and customs and protect those places and areas from physical harm. QYAC is also the registered Cultural Heritage Body under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act. According to the report, the Chair of QYAC is Dr Valerie Cooms and board members are Elizabeth Ruska, David Burns, Mary Indoole Compigne, Gavin Costelloe , Tommy Nuggin, Greg Egert, Dandruba, Jeanette Burns, King Billy Toompani, Karen Rylance, Weenyeeba, Leigh McPhaill, Kindara, Lizzie Borey, Liza Jungerboi, Tilly Dalton, Lorraine Hatton, Juno (Gonzales), Natalie Mazzoni, Nellie Kidgeri, Paul Martin and Tilly Dalton. When it comes to QYAC’s values, two stand out: Secure the Quandamooka Estate and becomes self sufficient, The gazettal move by the outgoing Queensland Palaszczuk Labor Government certainly enhances QYAC’s estates and ensures its future self sufficiency. As official as all that sounds, there is disquiet within the aboriginal community. In a statement in the October 2020 edition of the Friendly Bay Islander sections of the Quandamooka traditional owners called into question the actions of the State Government and the QYAC group and have called for a ‘independent inquiry’. Some of the signatories to this document are also listed as members of the QYAC group; an indication that all is not well when it comes to agreement. The Friendly Bay Islander fully supports the return of land to the traditional owners; however, there has been a terrible lack of transparency leading to degradation of the social fabric of the island. We care about everyone in our island community and now is a time for real collaboration and partnerships It seems just about everyone is ‘confused’ and there is trauma and hurt on both sides. So why are some in support of the process, and others apparently not? Those opposed to the current situation say some in the family organisation structure used by people of aboriginal heritage, have been deliberately left out of the consultation process. Dale Moreton and Elder Maureen Myers have both spoken on the record with the Friendly Bay Islander and they say some of the difficulties are deep seated and long standing. A number of decisions made by QYAC have been hotly contested and regarded by some as a ‘violation’ of Quandamooka culture. Dale Moreton said some have tried to have issues dealt with via the current QYAC structure, but to no avail. “There has been a total lack of transparency and accountability,” he said. He believes many of the issues now being contested go back to the original structuring of the Native Title Act itself. Maureen Myers says the situation is ‘so bad’ that some of the original family members of QYAC have stepped away from the organisation because of ‘occurrences’. “It needs to be made clear to the public that the conflict developing through social media threats concerning Point Lookout residents, does not involve all Aboriginal people from Dunwich. “Many Aboriginal elders and community members have now for years worked in collaboration with the non-indigenous residents of Point Lookout, uniting in opposition to the State Government and QYAC’s North Stradbroke Island Economic Transitions; processes; proposals and plans. “It could have been a far better and unified outcome had there been a far more inclusive process.” Whatever way it is looked at, the current situation on Minjerribah (Straddie) is not a happy one.
• Minjerribah traditional owners celebrating Native Title rights in happier times.