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869,822 ha
300km north-west of Cairns

The Olkola Aboriginal Corporation secured one of the largest transfers of Aboriginal freehold land in Australia’s history. Legal title for 5 pastoral properties totalling 869,822 hectares was handed back to the Olkola People in 2014.

This established them as the largest private landholder in Cape York and joint management partners with Queensland Parks in the largest new protected area in Queensland.

It also allowed the Olkola People to develop one of the largest, and most successful savannah burning carbon abatement projects in Australia.

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.

Olkola are now in the process of developing tourism, sustainable pastoralism, fee-for-service activities and working with not-for-profit and research organisations to create an economic base that supports strong culture, strong country and a strong future.

Hamish Ross and Glen Ross with an active Alwal nest. Photo: Bush Heritage/Olkola.

Our partnership

With the return of country came great responsibility for Olkola to manage and protect their lands. It was a strategic decision by the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation to seek out the right partners to work with. Our partnership supports their 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.

Olkola Land Mangers Brendan Ross, Hamish Kulka, Ashley Ross and Glen Kulka, with Bush Heritage Ecologist Allana Brown.

The Golden-shouldered Parrot

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 Chairperson 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's 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.

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.

Golden Shouldered Parrots. Photo Geoffrey Jones (
As part of this important project, Olkola are recording traditional knowledge about Alwal for future generations.

Outcomes of this project are: Improved breeding success and a secure future for the Moorehead River population, 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 we thank all our generous supporters for helping to make it possible.

An Olkola remote monitoring camera capturing photos of a mother Alwal tending to chicks in her termite mound nest.