El Questro Wilderness Park, the famous tourism precinct in the Kimberley that marks the eastern end of the Gibb River Road, will be returned to the Wanjina Wungurr Wilinggin Traditional Owners in an unprecedented deal announced today.

Nature Reserve Not Cattle Station

As part of the new Indigenous Land Use Agreement struck between the Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation (WAC) and the West Australian Government, the 165,000-hectare property will no longer be under a pastoral lease, but rather freehold and reserve tenures. 

Essentially this means the part of the property that’s currently a cattle station will instead become a nature reserve – what a win!

‘This agreement … is a solid achievement that we hope our young people will see as a way forward for our community to regain a place at the table of decision making,’ Arnold Sahanna, chair of Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation told ABC.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Tony Buti said, ‘It represents the potential for greater economic independence and self-determination for the Ngarinyin people, for today, and long into the future’.

The landmark agreement covers the southern section of the wilderness park, which includes Kimberley icons such as Zebedee Springs, El Questro Gorge, and Chamberlain Gorge. However the northern section of El Questro, Emma Gorge Resort, sits on Balanggarra land, so is not part of the deal.


Tourists Are Still Welcome

Road trippers fear not! Thanks to the freehold tenure, El Questro will still run as a tourist homestead under a 99-year lease with G’day Group, which has been running the operations since 2021, and is stoked on the outcome. 

‘It’s quite unusual that you’ve got a win-win-win and I’m really proud to be part of it,’ G’day Group CEO Grant Wilckens told ABC.

As part of the agreement, ongoing training and employment have been guaranteed for local Aboriginal youth by G’day Group, and there are plans to offer new cultural experiences on the property, in partnership with the Wanjina Wungurr Wilinggin Traditional Owners. 

The company will also work on the property’s environmental plan, with hopes of eventually operating on net-zero emissions, through upgrades to water, land, and waste management.


Feature photo thanks to @anthony.palmowski