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Termite mounds on Olkola Country Photo: Annette Ruzicka
Termite mounds on Olkola Country Photo: Annette Ruzicka





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.

Stories from Olkola

BLOG 06/04/2021

Finding Alwal’s sweet spot

A new research project on Olkola country funded by the Paul Hackett Memorial Scholarship will shed light on the nesting habits of the Golden-shouldered Parrot.

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Golden-shouldered Parrot. Photo Geoffrey Jones.

BUSHTRACKS 21/01/2021

The Olkola way

Olkola Elder Mike Ross is a Bush Hero whose visionary leadership has had a profound impact on Olkola country and people.

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BLOG 09/08/2019

Dingo protects endangered Alwal

The Olkola People of Cape York believe one of their totems may be a secret weapon in protecting another. Since 2014 Dingo baiting has been stopped and the boss totem of Olkola Country is making a comeback.

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BLOG 06/08/2019

Felixers: a tool to help save Alwal?

Olkola and Bush Heritage may have a new tool in our battle to protect the endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot (Alwal) from feral cats.

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BLOG 30/07/2019

An ecological murder mystery

Ecologist Allana Brown considers the mysterious story of five dismembered, fluffy tails. Who did they belong to? How did they lose them? Who were the innocent victims? Who dunnit?!

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BUSHTRACKS 10/09/2018

Olkola at the helm

The re-formed Golden-shouldered Parrot National Recovery Team, led by Olkola Elder Mike Ross, is providing fresh hope and optimism for the bird’s future.

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BLOG 24/07/2018

Our volunteering experience with Olkola

Mick and Kerry Moylan are long-time volunteers with Bush Heritage and their contribution can't be overstated! Here they share their experience of volunteering in Cape York for the recent Alwal Recovery Team meeting with our Olkola Aboriginal partners.

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BLOG 10/07/2018

Olkola lead the way for their Totem

I was fortunate to spend time last week up on beautiful Olkola Country in Cape York to be part of a very exciting national recovery team meeting for Alwal, the Golden-shouldered Parrot.

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BLOG 12/06/2018

That tricksy Felixy

It's well known that cats have a huge and often catastrophic impact on native species and are notoriously difficult to control. The Felixer cat trap might be the solution.

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BLOG 18/12/2017

Alwal’s Christmas dinner

Last week was the last trip for 2017 by Olkola Land Managers and Bush Heritage for the 'Bringing Alwal Home' project, and we gave the Golden Shouldered Parrots (Alwal) their Christmas dinners! The early wet season is a critical time for the survival of juvenile Alwal. Seeds are in short supply as early rains have germinated much of the seed and it's too soon for the young grasses to produce more. We provide supplementary food.

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BLOG 11/05/2017

Alwal breeding

The first surveys for Alwal (Golden-shouldered Parrots) have begun for 2017 and successfully recorded 12 nests. At some of the nests we observed the sympatric grub, Trisyntopa scatophaga, which lives in Alwal nests and helps keep them clean.

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BLOG 13/12/2016

Helping Alwal survive the wet season

Olkola, Bush Heritage, Artemis Station, Black-faced Woodswallows and friends all working together to support young Golden-shouldered Parrots make it through their first wet season.

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BUSHTRACKS 06/12/2016

Bringing home Alwal

A partnership between Bush Heritage Australia and the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation aims to bring the Golden-shouldered Parrot back from the brink.

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BLOG 29/11/2016

Alwal’s first flight

It's not every day you get to see the first flight of a baby bird, especially not an endangered species, nor to capture the moment on camera. But through hours of dedicated survey time Olkola Land Manager Glen Kulka did just that!

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BLOG 06/07/2015

Olkola & the Golden-shouldered Parrot

Hey! Where's the road gone?! The metre high grasses have covered it up again! I've never driven 7 hours just to put in a photo point before (that's 7 hours there and 7 hours back, by the way) but for the Olkola land managers this is just a regular day.

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