THE Butchulla people fought for and won their native title rights to Fraser Island in 2014 but now they want financial compensation "in the millions".

Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC has lodged a claim to the Queensland Government to provide compensation for World Heritage listed Fraser Island - called K'gari in the Butchulla language.

The case could go to the Federal Court of Australia if not settled beforehand.

New signs to be erected at entry points to K'gari (Fraser Island) - Butchulla elders (L) Gayle Minniecon, Joyce Bonner, Jan Williams, Christine Royan (Sec. Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation) and Shirley Blake
New signs to be erected at entry points to K'gari (Fraser Island) - Butchulla elders (L) Gayle Minniecon, Joyce Bonner, Jan Williams, Christine Royan (Sec. Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation) and Shirley Blake Alistair Brightman

BAC secretary Christine Royan told the Chronicle their organisation was aiming for a sum of "millions" from the State Government.

"Nothing can compensate for what our ancestors went through," Mrs Royan said.

"We can't put an exact price on it but it is in the millions of dollars."

The native title right was awarded in 2014 after a long legal battle, with a Federal Court having an "on country" sitting before announcing their decision.

"Though recognised as the traditional owners of K'gari, we weren't given any joint management, compensation or freehold land," Mrs Royan said.

"We expected the government to give us that then. Instead, all we got was a photo and nothing more than that - it's an insult."

BAC was formed in September 2014, a month before the native title announcement. Its role became to manage the native title rights of the Butchulla people.

The group claims that their native titles right and interests have been "extinguished or affected".

If successful and they are compensated, BAC would become owners of 1646sq km of the available land on Fraser Island.

Christine Royan (Sec. Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation).
Christine Royan (Sec. Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation). Alistair Brightman

 

The entire island is 1840sq km, with owned freehold land like Kingfisher Bay Resort excluded from the claim. The money BAC would gain would be injected into preserving the Butchulla culture and improving Fraser Island.

"We would co-manage the island and have our own business which we will run alongside QPWS (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service)," Mrs Royan said.

"That means we will have our rangers living on our country and caring for it."

Their vision is to create new business on the island under the Butchulla name.

"It's hard for us even just making it across the barge now to get to K'gari," Mrs Royan said.

"Under the compensation, we would start our own barge service."

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Fraser Island is an Australian tourism hot-spot with hundreds of thousands of people travelling there every year. But Mrs Royan said BAC wasn't seeing any of that profit.

"We are addressing the permits because we want to get some of that back," she said.

"On the freehold land, we have plans of establishing a camping area run by us. There will also be cultural tours run by us.

"We won't be taking over the existing services but working with them."

If successful, this national title compensation claim would be the first of its kind in Queensland.

"The government needs to give us compensation so we can continue looking after our beautiful K'gari," Mrs Royan said.



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