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Senator Colbeck: Forestry linked to economic and social benefits in Cape York

25 May 2015

Senator Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture is in Cape York this week to look at opportunities for traditional owners to take control of the forest resources on their land.

The visit included a tour of Cape York Timbers, a social enterprise by Cape York Partnership which offers training to indigenous people and produces high-quality Australian hardwood sawntimber from predominantly indigenous owned forests.

“There are many issues for the community with high youth unemployment, low retention levels in schools and social disruption. This programme is helping to provide an economic and social future for their people and I’m impressed by the desire of the Cape York traditional owners to develop a future for themselves,” Senator Colbeck said.

“The income generated through this programme will be used to manage areas of high conservation value and maintain access to key tourist attractions, such as Roaring Meg Falls in the heart of the Daintree Wet Tropics World Heritage Area."

“It is great to see the economic and social values of forests being recognised through this programme.”

Cape York Timbers is run by husband and wife team Shane and Kerri Sproule who have sold their Gippsland sawmilling business to take on this new challenge of managing a start-up mill in Cooktown. The mill is operated by indigenous employees who are learning skills on the job, under Shane's guidance and producing product that sells on the timber market in Cairns and as far as Brisbane.

At Weipa discussions were held with Rio Tinto Alcan to investigate the possibility of utilising timber resources resulting from the clearing for bauxite mining.  Once again this presents opportunities for traditional owners to develop commercial enterprises to harvest and process these timbers.

Senator Colbeck is being hosted in Cape York by Mr Richie Ah Mat, Chairman of the Cape York Land Council and a member of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

Mr Ah Mat said they are determined to address welfare issues in the community and in the process, close the gap in Cape York.

“It's fantastic to have Senator Colbeck here to look at what we’re trying to achieve using the natural resources to create employment, get back to culture and address welfare - this is a 20 year vision. Hopefully the mobs in Cape York are fully sustainable and choosing their own destiny, but this is a 100 year plan,” Mr Ah Mat said.

​Cape York Partnership's vision is for the people of Cape York Peninsula to have capabilities to choose lives they have reason to value. It is concentrating on health, housing, education and employment as the four pillars of its development agenda.

Find out more

Visit the Senator's website to view this media release.

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