Frankie Deemal

Large swathes of the former Starcke Station, around Cape Melville in far north Queensland, have transferred to Guugi-speaking clans under four Indigenous land use agreements.

Frankie Deemal can now happily contemplate an extraordinary coincidence that saw his people recover more than 90,000ha of his grandfather's country.

In February 1993, he was attending a conference in America when he chanced on a newspaper advertisement offering "50 miles of beaches" - his grandfather's country - to American developers.

As soon as he got back to Australia, Frankie, cousin Noel Pearson and other supporters began a campaign against the overseas sale. They teamed with the fledgling Cape York Wilderness Society, organised a roadshow of traditional owners from Cairns to Melbourne and managed to strike a chord with everyday Australians.

Armed with this popular support, the state government stepped in and bought the station. More than half the land was turned into national parks; most of the remainder has been transferred to traditional owners.

Frankie says there's a good lesson. "It would seem there's this big developer and he's going to sell a large chunk of land and nothing's going to change. But, if you've got the conviction and put your shoulder to the wheel, then something can happen."

DESCRIPTION: Frankie Deemal, architect of Starcke Station hand over.

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