Olkola

Last updated: Wednesday 03 August, 2016

The Olkola Aboriginal Corporation was successful in securing one of the largest transfers of Aboriginal freehold land in Australia’s history when legal title for 5 pastoral properties, totalling over 700,000 hectares, was handed back to the Olkola People in December 2014. 

Ashley Ross and Glen Kulka, Olkola Land Managers, with neighbor and fellow Golden-shouldered Parrot conservationist Sue Shephard of Artemis Station.  Photo: Bush Heritage/Olkola
Ashley Ross and Glen Kulka, Olkola Land Managers, with neighbor and fellow Golden-shouldered Parrot conservationist Sue Shephard of Artemis Station. Photo: Bush Heritage/Olkola
This has established the Olkola People as the largest private landholder in Cape York, as joint management partners with Queensland Parks in the largest new protected area in Queensland, and allowed the Olkola People to develop one of the largest, and most successful savannah burning carbon abatement projects in Australia. 

Currently they're developing tourism opportunities, sustainable pastoralism, fee-for-service activities and working with not-for-profit and research organisations to provide an economic base to establish a community for the Olkola people to come home to country. Their journey has not been one of waiting for a determination, they've asserted their traditional rights in all their dealings with Government, not-for-profit and commercial partnerships to secure an economic base which supports strong culture, strong country and a strong future for all Olkola People.

The Olkola – Bush Heritage Partnership

Olkola Land Mangers Brendan Ross, Hamish Kulka, Ashley Ross and Glen Kulka, with Allana Brown, Bush Heritage Healthy Landscape Manager and Ecologist. Photo Bus Heritage/Olkola.
Olkola Land Mangers Brendan Ross, Hamish Kulka, Ashley Ross and Glen Kulka, with Allana Brown, Bush Heritage Healthy Landscape Manager and Ecologist. Photo Bus Heritage/Olkola.
With the return of country comes great responsibility for Olkola to manage and protect their lands autonomously by and for the Olkola people. It was a strategic decision by the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation to seek out the right partners to work with to achieve their cause. The Olkola – Bush Heritage partnership supports Olkola’s vision to actively manage and take care of their lands now and for future generations.

Bush Heritage has supported the community consultation and development of the Olkola Healthy Country Plan, which steers the direction for investment, land management and conservation activities and details strategies to keep people, country and culture strong. We're working together on a long-term project to secure the future of Alwal (the Golden-shouldered Parrot), one of Australia’s most endangered birds and a totemic species for Olkola. More broadly, our partnership joins two 'knowledge pathways', explained by Mike Ross as one of the most important elements of caring for country:

“Our job is to link our traditional knowledge and cultural knowledge with the scientific way – there is a pathway there, there has always been a pathway between our traditional knowledge and science. If we can link that (to protect the environment) then our work will have been completed…”
- Mike Ross, Olkola Chairperson.

Landscape-scale habitat improvement for the Golden-shouldered Parrot

An Olkola remote monitoring camera capturing photos of a mother Alwal tending to chicks in her termite mound nest.
An Olkola remote monitoring camera capturing photos of a mother Alwal tending to chicks in her termite mound nest.
Olkola Rangers will improve the breeding success of the Northern Moorehead River population of Alwal (Golden-shouldered Parrot) through landscape-scale habitat improvement. This will be achieved by reinstating Olkola traditional fire regimes, including storm burns, at critical nesting areas that have been impacted by woody thickening.

Nest site surveys will be undertaken improving current estimates of the Northern population (thought to be around 1,300 individuals). A long-term monitoring program is being implemented by Olkola and Bush Heritage Australia to assess breeding success based on daily probability of survival, vegetation response to fire management and to further develop remote camera survey techniques.  

Hamish Ross and Glen Ross with an active Alwal nest. Photo Bush Heritage/Olkola.
Hamish Ross and Glen Ross with an active Alwal nest. Photo Bush Heritage/Olkola.
As part of this important project, Olkola are recording traditional knowledge about Alwal to secure this knowledge for future generations. Outcomes of this project are: Improved breeding success and a secure future for the Moorehead River population of Alwal, improved habitat for grassland-dependant species, development and implementation of a long-term monitoring program that brings both Olkola Traditional Knowledge and western scientific ways of understanding together.

This is a long-term project and Bush Heritage wishes to thank our supporters for helping us and Olkola to achieve these outcomes. 

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