Kondaparinga Station Trip – NNTAC, NQLC & ILSC (27-28 April 2021)
There was a distinct energy amongst the seven Nguddaboolgan Native Title Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (NNTAC) board members as they packed the cars at NQLC on the morning of April 27, 2021. The anticipation only grew stronger as we headed west and after a brief stop to drop off bags and have a bite to eat in Dimbulah, everyone was eager to push on.
It wasn’t long before we rounded a bend and instantly the energy and anticipation made sense. There, in all its grandeur, stood Ngarraboolgan (Mount Mulligan), which holds immense cultural significance for the Djungan People that the NNTAC represent.
Standing there, in the shadow of the mountain, marked important progress for Djungan People. It was the culmination of years of hard work by NNTAC with countless hours sitting around the boardroom table to ensure that this place of significance remained in Djungan People’s hands.
Along with NQLC staff, the NNTAC Board was joined by Chris Martin of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC). The ILSC and NQLC have been working closely with the NNTAC board on a process for the ILSC to acquire Kondaparinga Station (the Station) which encompasses Ngarraboolgan, after the property owners, Kuku Djungan Aboriginal Corporation had gone into liquidation putting the property at risk of being sold on the open market.
Part of the process to keep Ngarraboolgan in Djungan People’s hands involved an application to the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) by NQLC on behalf of NNTAC for funding for capacity development for NNTAC which was successful along with an application to the ILSC for funding to secure the Station.
The ILSC acquisition process involves ILSC funding to secure the Station on behalf of Djungan People whereby the leasehold interest of the Station initially transfers to the ILSC and then for a mandatory divestment plan to be put in place so that the leasehold interest eventually transfers to NNTAC or a subsidiary of NNTAC set up to manage the property. Part of the divestment plan involves NNTAC demonstrating that NIAA funds have been put to good use in developing business plans to realise Djungan Peoples’ aspirations and demonstrating they have the capacity to manage the Station.
The On-Country trip came about as recognition by the ILSC that all necessary steps that could be taken, had been taken, for the ILSC to proceed with the acquisition of the Station. The remaining step at the time of leaving for the trip on 27 April was for the Supreme Court of Queensland to approve an application made by the liquidators, who had control over the Station for the ILSC to acquire the title. The Court’s decision was pending on the 28 April 2021 and everyone eagerly awaited its decision.
We could have marveled at the mountain all day, but there was too much to do. After welcoming Chris and NQLC staff onto Djungan Country by the Chairman, Judulu Neal, it was all about getting a picture of where the Station was at, what it could be and how to start putting together a road map on how to get there. The two days were packed with assessing current signage conditions and locations, safety and suitability of the roads for access, current and future economic opportunities, potential campsites and safety measures, conditions of existing infrastructure, engaging the Station’s neighbours, and a brief stop into the ruins of the Mount Mulligan mining settlement. After returning to the Dimbulah Hotel for the evening, it wasn’t long before heads hit the pillow, knowing that the next morning was going to be even more packed. The second day of the trip certainly didn’t disappoint. After delving much deeper into the Station’s history the party enjoyed a late lunch on the banks of a very swollen Mitchell River at the north eastern end of the Station. Eventually, it was time to leave – no easy feat considering the size of the Station and the condition of some of the roads. Thankfully, there was time enough for a very brief stop to admire the mountain one last time, and to appreciate the beautiful landscape that we had navigated over the last two days.
The trip was rounded out perfectly with a stop at Dimbulah, before heading back to Cairns. It had been a mammoth couple of days, and as everyone gathered to offer their thanks, a message came through to NQLC staff – the Court had accepted the liquidator’s submission, meaning the ILSC could proceed to acquire the title to the Station. This was the news NNTAC had been waiting to hear for over the last two years and was a fitting end to a successful trip On-Country.
There were a few tired eyes as everyone piled back into the cars, but plenty of smiles nonetheless. The eager energy had shifted to optimism for the road ahead and what this latest development would mean for the Djungan People.
The ILSC acquiring title is just the beginning of a long process of securing the Station for Djungan People, but massive steps had been taken to retain Ngarraboolgan on behalf of all Djungan People. The board continues to engage with Chris at the ILSC and NQLC to work on processes that will eventually see the divestment of the Station back to Djungan People’s control.
Additionally, NNTAC have recently employed Robert Marcysiak as their full time Project Coordinator. Robert will assist in coordinating the work required to ensure the right processes are put in place to ensure the Station is returned to Djungan People and will continue to work closely with the ILSC and NQLC.
To accommodate the extra staff and growth in their workload NNTAC has recently moved into a new more spacious office located at 24 Hannam Street, Bungalow in Cairns. Djungan People are encouraged to drop by and have a cup of tea and introduce themselves to NNTAC’s new Project Coordinator.
Article written by:
Paralegal Officer, FAME Unit
North Queensland Land Council