Jabalbina and Gondwana Rainforest Trust are coming together to restore the Daintree Lowland Rainforest. A recently signed agreement will see the two organisations contributing to a significant rainforest restoration project at Wawu Dimbi.

The Eastern Kuku Yalanji are the owners of the Daintree National Park and Traditional Owners of the Daintree Lowland Rainforest. Their Country (Bubu) runs along the East Coast of Far North Queensland, and it includes land and sea between Port Douglas and just south of Cooktown. The Eastern Kuku Yalanji have a rich cultural identity and strong spiritual connection to Daintree Rainforest. 

The Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation represents the Eastern Kuku Yalanji. They employ the Jabalbina Rangers who work on Bubu.

Surrounded by tropical rainforest and bordering the Daintree National Park is a 180.74-hectare property located at Wawu Dimbi (near Forest Creek) in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest. Recently retired from cattle grazing, the site is now used as an Indigenous learning facility. The 39 hectares that were used for grazing and are covered in exotic grasses are primed for rainforest restoration.

Revegetating this land will assist Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama (Bama meaning Rainforest Aboriginal people) to return to and manage Bubu (Country).

The Wawu Dimbi property is adjacent to the Daintree River, which flows to the Great Barrier Reef. It is a high priority for revegetation as this will reduce sediment flowing to the Great Barrier Reef Catchment, improve water quality, reduce water temperature, and contribute to the survival of a diversity of coral species.

Restoring the rainforest at Wawu Dimbi will greatly contribute to conserving the Lowland Tropical Rainforest, an important outcome as Lowland Tropical Rainforest in the Wet Tropics was recently listed as Endangered on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (1999).

Stronger Together

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and Gondwana Rainforest Trust have formed a unique partnership – creating the only formalised, non-Government program which purchases land in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest for conservation to be owned and managed by its Traditional Owners. Working together we have purchased 29 properties (February 2024).

Continuing the theme of being stronger together Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and Gondwana Rainforest Trust have now agreed to restore cleared land in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest starting with this project at Wawu Dimbi.   

About Wawu Dimbi

The name Wawu Dimbi means ‘spirit in the background’ referring to the significant cultural site of Wundu (Thornton Peak), which is a major Eastern Kuku Yalanji story place. Traditionally the property formed part of a major walking track leading to the Kileys Creek Upper Daintree area (later used as a forestry track). 

Wawu Dimbi supports Eastern Kuku Yalanji as a place for Bama to connect to Bubu. There are two existing buildings on the property located near the Daintree River. The property provides a site for meetings and cultural activities. It is used for the On Country program and for both boys’ and girls’ cultural camps.

A priority of our project is to re-establish plant species of Cultural significance to Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama. This includes plants traditionally used for food, tools, shelters, and medicines. This will establish an accessible resource for Bama in the use of these plants.

Having this project at Wawu Dimbi helps to address concerns for Eastern Kuku Yalanji including:

  • Not being on Bubu (Country)
  • Culture losing strength (not being passed on)
  • Kuku (language) losing strength
  • Cultural heritage sites jirmbal, not being protected
  • Inappropriate development and visitors not respecting Bubu and Bama

What we’ll do on Wawu Dimbi

We will work collaboratively to establish 110,000 trees on the property over seven years. Planting will take place over the first four years and maintenance will continue for three years after the last planting. Trees will be grown in a nursery close to the project site and only species native to the Daintree Rainforest and to Wawu Dimbi will be established.

Indigenous ownership

The Wawu Dimbi property was purchased on behalf of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji after the Daintree Mission closed in the 1960s. The Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation holds the lease to this property which is owned by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation. The Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation will deliver employment and training outcomes for Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama.

In addition to returning Bama to work on Bubu, the project will also achieve Cultural outcomes by planting species of Cultural significance. These are species that have been identified by Eastern Kuku Yalanji as significant for food, Culture, ceremony, medicine, and materials for other uses. These species will be planted throughout the project area and can be collected when the plants are mature. The planting of these species and access to them was requested by Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Aboriginal Corporation. a not-for-profit association that represents the cultural, social, and economic aspirations of the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community.

17 roles will be created through this project with 12 of those roles being Indigenous-specified traineeships. The project will also increase the participation of women, ensuring that 50% of trainees identify as female. These are new jobs creating new employment opportunities for young Indigenous people keen to boost their practical skills and understanding of the plants and animals that occur on their Bubu. These people will be trained in conservation and land management including seed collection, plant identification, plant propagation, and horticulture. As well as formal training, participants will also gain hands-on experience managing the nursery, and undertaking site preparation, planting, and maintenance.

Our goal is a jointly managed project that utilises existing nursery facilities and associated tree planting programs with sufficient capacity to reforest the 39 hectares of cleared land. 

The rainforest restoration project on Wawu Dimbi property will:

  • Support the training of Bama in seed collection, propagation, tree planting, maintenance, and nursery management

  • Use existing infrastructure to propagate rainforest trees for planting

  • Establish plant species native to the Wawu Dimbi site, including culturally significant species for access by Bama (food, medicine, resource)

High-value ecosystems

The 39 hectares of cleared vegetation border rainforest remnants and high-value regrowth. They contain endangered communities, endangered Regional Ecosystems and waterways that flow directly to the Great Barrier Reef.

The vegetation that surrounds the project site is a known habitat for Kurranji (the Endangered Southern Cassowary) and they have been sighted on this, as well as adjacent properties. Cassowaries are listed as Endangered under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act (1992) and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).

The project site and surrounding vegetation are identified as “high risk” on the protected plant flora survey trigger map administered by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science. This 39-hectare clearing will be replanted to expand neighbouring patches into functional rainforest ecosystems and to create new habitat for endemic species.

Improving water quality flowing to the Great Barrier Reef

Trees will be established in a catchment that flows directly to the Great Barrier Reef. Planting trees along the Daintree River will slow water moving through the landscape and capture sediment that would otherwise flow through the Daintree River system and out to the reef. This impacts the health of mangroves, fish and other aquatic species and their ecosystems and ultimately the health of coral and marine populations.

Who owns the land?

Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) owns Wawu Dimbi and it is currently leased to Bamanga Bubu Ngadmunku Aboriginal Corporation (BBN). Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation has been co-managing the land with BBN. BBN has agreed to transfer the lease to Jabalbina. The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation has confirmed its support of this arrangement.

Who will manage the project?

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation will manage all aspects of the on-ground work at Wawu Dimbi. The scope of the on-ground project, its goals, and its objectives have all been agreed upon. Rainforest 4 Foundation has made a commitment to engaging the broader Australian community as volunteers, donors, and sponsors of the project.

Natural Capital Investments 

The term Natural Capital Investment is being used in association with ecosystem restoration projects and refers to the resulting co-benefits. 

It considers these inputs: 

  • Human
  • Natural
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Financial

And offers returns for: 

1, Wildlife: Protect and enhance Biodiversity through rainforest restoration

2, Climate: Sequester Carbon and establish credits through rainforest restoration

3, People: meaningfully involve Indigenous peoples

4, Planet: Establish sustainable communities in the places in which we work through employment, business and staff involvement, volunteering and supporting a localised economy  

Required financial investment

The project is commencing in July 2023 through an initial investment that will begin production of the 111,000 plants to be established on the site. The total required investment is $2.26m. The scope of work has been established and costed and a detailed budget is available on request. 

We are now seeking expressions of interest from individuals, businesses, and governments interested in joining us in the project.

Please contact:

Richard Christian

CEO, Gondwana Rainforest Trust

Email: [email protected]

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