Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation head defends Point Lookout whale centre as hundreds sign petition opposing project

CONTROVERSIAL: Yalingbila Bibula has attracted criticism since it was first proposed. Photo: QYAC
CONTROVERSIAL: Yalingbila Bibula has attracted criticism since it was first proposed. Photo: QYAC

MORE than 1100 people have signed a petition opposing a whale centre at Point Lookout in a last-ditch attempt to halt the project.

Petitioners said the headland was a sacred site for First Nations people and community objection had not been taken into account.

But Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Cameron Costello said the centre would enhance cultural heritage rather than denigrate it.

Point Lookout, or Mulumba, is one of Queensland's most popular whale watching spots, with 80 per cent of passing pods coming within five kilometres of shore.

Yalingbila Bibula, to be built along the Gorge Walk on the Point Lookout headland, would give information about the whales and would display a 15 metre whale skeleton that came ashore on the island.

The centre has long attracted criticism from residents, including for cultural and environmental reasons.

The petition stated that the centre was opposed by many First Nations people.

"...The headland ... is (a) sacred Aboriginal men's site and (it is) culturally disrespectful to publicly display the skeletal remains of a whale," it said.

"Construction on the proposed site will be contrary to the Federal Court's Consent Determination in 2011 recognising non-exclusive native title rights over the subject land area which did not include a right to build."

Mr Costello said no evidence presented to QYAC indicated the headland was a sacred men's site.

"Ground penetrating radar works and a systematic sub-surface probing program ... determined the proposed site was suitable for building with no impact on cultural heritage.

"From the project's earliest conception, Quandamooka Elders have been consulted."

He said whale bones had been on display on Minjerribah and in Quandamooka art galleries for years.

Petitioners were concerned about the potential uses of the centre, and were also worried about parking in Point Lookout's busy main street.

"The community was informed the centre was not a commercial enterprise and it would be situated on a small part of grassed area. In reality, it appears the centre may be used for commercial purposes including private event hire.

"The area surrounding the centre (already) experiences parking overflow during peak periods."

Mr Costello said visitors to the centre would peak from May to September - outside the island's main summer peak period - and existing car parking would be sufficient.

"There has been a long history of commercial style ventures on the headland," he said.

"When Redland City Council were trustees of the site, it was used for events and activities. This will merely continue what has already been occurring."

Mr Costello said the centre would have a footprint about half the size of a tennis court.

Petitioners also said designation requirements were not sufficient, including those around managing effects on fauna including kangaroos, koalas and nesting turtles and their hatchlings.

Residents marched in opposition to the centre's location in January 2019, and a fake human skeleton was posted at the headland earlier this year in protest of displaying sacred whale bones.

"The whale, yalingbila, is our kin," protesters said in a statement.

"This could be your father, your mother, your grandmother, grandfather, sibling, not treated with the respect or dignity they (deserve). When whales die at sea, they are buried at sea."