Woppaburra elder Bob Muir.
Woppaburra elder Bob Muir.

What Woppaburra elders think about GKI resort plans

Two Woppaburra elders think Altum Property Group should better consult them about resort plans on Great Keppel Island, but the developer insists it has had several meetings with Indigenous representatives and considers it too early for formal negotiations, as it does not yet have the leases for the project.

Altum and the recently-formed GKI Progress Association held a meeting last week explaining the various stages of the resort proposal.

At the forum, Altum construction director Rob McCready said the following about Indigenous consultation:

“This is ongoing dialogue. We’ve met, as I’ve said, with many of the Woppaburra including Auntie Glenice and Bobby Muir and his son Robert and his nephew.

“We toured the island and spoke about how we could partner together to ensure the Woppaburra people have the opportunity to create something for their people that will last them for generations into the future and protect and enhance their culture.

“We will be connecting roads and within those road alignments, power, water, and sewer reticulation to the Aboriginal lands adjoining our contracted leases, and this will give them the opportunity that they’ve never had before.”

Mr McCready speaking at the GKI Progress Association meeting.
Mr McCready speaking at the GKI Progress Association meeting.

This week, Woppaburra elder Bob Muir said he agreed to join the progress association as an honorary member mainly because he wanted to stay abreast of the development plans.

But he said he “didn’t want to be used as a football” and now thought the resort proponents planned to “drip feed the media and drip feed the public once a month”.

“They said that they’ve walked country with us or with me and my son … basically none of that has happened.

“My association with Rob was he came over last year. We sat down and just talked with him.

“They’ve been saying things that aren’t true about their association with Woppaburra, and obviously I’m a bit concerned.”

He called the situation “disheartening” because of “falsehoods” to do with Altum’s project and said it was “the wrong time to ask the government for any type of money”.

“Some of the people involved with this process don’t seem to want Woppaburra involved anyway,” he claimed.

Warinkil Auntie Glenice Croft shared the sentiment, condemning those who would “invade Woppaburra Country and help desecrate and destroy GKI environmental sustainability and the Great Barrier Reef that is on Woppaburra Island Home’s doorstep”.

Ms Croft refused to join the progress association, and neither she nor Mr Muir attended last week’s meeting, which she labelled “a grandstand promotional propaganda fiasco about what ‘could’ happen, as [Rob] McCready is not the lease holder of Tower leases as yet”.

“Also let it be noted in Woppaburra perspective that we have never had any consultation meetings with McCready, as a meeting to meet said person, or a phone call, is not ‘consultation’,” she said.

The McCreadys and the Muirs at Great Keppel Island.
The McCreadys and the Muirs at Great Keppel Island.

In response, Mr McCready said it would be “premature at this stage” to hold any formal consultations because Altum did not yet have the GKI land leases, but he detailed the “informal” meetings held so far to “establish lines of communication and trust”.

“We value the time we have spent on Great Keppel Island with Bob Muir, and a small group of Woppaburra people on 3rd July 2020,” he said.

“The purpose of this meeting was simply to get to know each other. We spent half a day together where they installed a ‘Always has, always will be … Woppaburra’ sign near the plaque off Fisherman’s Beach on one parcel of Aboriginal land, recognising the traditional owners of GKI.

“After that we drove up to the current derelict lookout and also visited another parcel of Aboriginal land overlooking Leekes Beach (Woppaburra North), and enjoyed lunch together where we talked about our, and their, aspirations for the island and how we all hoped to work together constructively.

“We were particularly honoured and humbled to be welcomed to country with a traditional smoking ceremony which our children participated in, where we learned about Mugga Mugga (Humpback Whale) their totem and sang together.”

Mr McCready said he met Ms Croft in Brisbane last year; that Ms Croft and Altum general manager Leigh McCready were both at a recent meeting about the feral goats on GKI; and that another Brisbane meeting was scheduled for February 23.

He said he had also called Mr Muir and Ms Croft to tell them about the progress association meeting, and had met with Woppaburra Native Title lawyer Scott Singleton.

“We will continue to communicate with Woppaburra, and as a courtesy I always put in a phone call to either Bob Muir or Auntie Glenice (or often both), to let them know when I am planning on visiting GKI and the purpose of my visit,” Mr McCready said.

“I highly respect them both and always find our conversations polite and constructive.

“I look forward to engaging formally in the future, and are aware of their consultation protocols.”

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