All over indigenous Australia, there are people who have returned to live on their traditional country, rather than in towns or communities to which they have no real cultural connection. And there are others working towards that goal. In the 1970s, the idea of going back to live on country began to be called the homelands movement – and one of its pioneers in far north Queensland is David Claudie.
David is chairman of the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation, formed in 2002 by the descendants of a Kuuku I’yu Northern Kaanju ancestor.
The Northern Kaanju people began their struggle for recognition as custodians of their Cape York country in the 1970s. In the 80s they began re-occupying their land on sand-ridge country between the Wenlock and Pascoe rivers, many hours drive from the nearest small towns.
These days David Claudie and about 25 others live on country – in Chuulangun, a remote, modest, effective and environmentally sustainable community. There’s an entrepreneurial flavour to the many projects running here – including a carbon abatement strategy, employment and training programs, and an indigenous medicine project.
David Claudie challenges many of the commonly held notions about indigenous people. He doesn’t much care for the oft-used term “traditional owner” – he says you won’t understand indigenous people from anthropology texts or the Native Title Act.
Read more about Chuulangun
Pictures by ABC Open reporter Suze Cray, ABC Far North’s Phil Staley, Lyndal Scobell from Cape York NRM, and me.