The World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is one of four national parks to be returned to traditional owners under an agreement signed with an Australian state government.

Over 160,000 hectares of land in northern Queensland, stretching from Daintree, north to Port Douglas, south to Cooktown, will be jointly managed before a full transfer is made to the people of Eastern Kuku Yalanji.

The agreement was signed on Wednesday by government ministers and representatives of the East Kuku Yalanji people at a ceremony in Bloomfield, north of the Wujal Wujal indigenous community.

The Daintree is one of the oldest rainforests in the world, estimated to be over 130 million years old, and lies close to the Great Barrier Reef.

Daintree, Ngalba-bulal, Kalkajaka and Hope Islands National Parks will now be jointly managed by the traditional owners and the Queensland State Government, while a new nature refuge will also be created.

“The culture of the oriental people of Kuku Yalanji is one of the oldest living cultures in the world and this agreement recognizes their right to own and manage their country, to protect their culture and to share it with visitors as they become leaders of the tourism industry, “said the Minister of the Environment. Meaghan Scanlon said.

Kuku Yalanji East Representative Chrissy Grant said four years of negotiations have been an important process in establishing the framework for exclusive and total management of the land.

Vast swathes of Australian wilderness have been returned to traditional owners in recent decades, including Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks in the Northern Territory.