Mystery shrouds claim the army has Fraser in its sights

MYSTERY shrouds claims made by a descendant of the traditional owners of Fraser Island that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has plans to bring part of its operations to the national park.

Bundaberg man Damein Aidon, a member of the Butchulla tribe, said the ADF had lodged a use of land application to the High Court under the Security Act.

"It's come as a surprise - we do have a native title claim in that is now before the Federal Court," he said.

"I'm a descendant of one of the families recognised as the traditional owner of the land."

Mr Aidon said the claim was made more than 14 years ago but an elder had recently been alerted by the Queensland South Native Title Services - the representing body that deals with all traditional land owners' claims - which had informed them the ADF was believed to have its eye on Fraser Island.

"We have to await the decision of the High Court to see what Act takes precedent," he said.

"It will be up to the court to decide whether to pursue the interests of the army under the Security Act or they will defer to the native title group under the Native Title Act, which are both Commonwealth Acts."

Mr Aidon said he did not know the specifics of the army's intentions but it was understood it might seek to move one of its units to the island.

"I'm not sure of the extent of it," he said.

"It's an ongoing process with the Federal Court."

The Chronicle contacted the ADF last week for confirmation, and is still awaiting a formal response.

Department of National Parks Regional Operations East executive director Neil Cambourn said the department had not been contacted by the Commonwealth with any proposals to acquire land for an army barracks on Fraser Island.

The island does have strong links to the military after it was used in the Second World War for the training of thousands of troops.

Two camps were set up, about 20km apart, near Lake McKenzie.

The Fraser Commando School, as it was known, was designed to help troops adapt to living and fighting in "jungle conditions".

Specialists were also trained in signals communications, intelligence work to aid in the battle against the Japanese, plus meteorology and medical work.

Military history

  • Fraser Island was used by the Z Special Unit (the Services Reconnaisance Department) as a special forces training camp known as the Fraser Commando School
  • Several thousand soldiers were trained on the island because the conditions were similar to the Pacific Islands
  • Parachute training was carried out at Lake McKenzie and explosives drills were carried out at the wreck of the Maheno

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