Words by Bill Wilkie


A holiday in tropical north Queensland isn’t complete without a visit to the Daintree. The Daintree is at the northern end of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area, declared in 1988 for its outstanding ecological values and biological diversity.

We caught up with Ms Chrissy Grant, the recently appointed chair of the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA).

If there is a heart of Queensland’s Wet Tropics, surely it is the Daintree. Long considered the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Queensland’s tourism sites, the Daintree is home to cassowaries and tree-kangaroos, fan palm groves and isolated palm-tree lined beaches. It was here that many of the early botanical discoveries brought the area to the attention of scientists in the 1960s: Plant species so old they were labelled ‘green dinosaurs’. And it was also in the Daintree that conservationists took a stand, staging the Daintree Blockade in 1983-4, to bring attention to threats to the region from logging and land-clearing for agriculture, sub-divisions and development.

The publicity stemming from the blockade led to World Heritage listing of Queensland’s wet tropical rainforests in 1988. The Wet Tropics cover 894,420ha of land stretching along the far north Queensland coast for about 450km from Townsville to Cooktown.

So, what is the Wet Tropics? What does the Wet Tropics Management Authority actually do? Chair Chrissy Grant explains:

“The Wet Tropics is 80 million years older than the Amazon rainforest,” Ms Grant says enthusiastically. “Imagine that! 80 million years older! It is also the home of the rainforest Aboriginal peoples who have been the traditional custodians of the Wet Tropics, living in and from the rainforest and caring for the country and its diverse habitats for thousands of years.”

“The WTMA Board’s key function is to implement programs to meet Australia’s international obligations for the World Heritage Area,” she explains.

“The Board sets a number of priorities each year including programs and projects to address climate change, partnerships with rainforest Aboriginal people, community engagement, science, tourism, Yellow Crazy Ant eradication, and day-to-day management of resources to meet our accountability as a capable organisation.”

Ms Grant grew up in Cairns, and later Brisbane, but has a deep connection to the area.

“The Wet Tropics is very important to me,” she said. “It is the home of my ancestors with my apical family headed up by Queen Maggie. My mother was born on the beach on the northern side of the Daintree River heads. Her siblings were born in different places across the landscape on Julan (Sea) Country.

“All our school holidays were spent at Daintree, Saltwater Creek or Miallo with family and having a great time with our cousins.”

Ms Grant is the first indigenous person to be chair of the Wet Tropics. But, most importantly, she brings an impressive resume to the position of chair, with almost 40 years of experience in land management issues. She spent many years in Canberra working with the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and as Director of Indigenous Heritage in the Australian Heritage Commission. On retiring from the public service, Ms Grant continued to be involved with panels and committees focusing on issues of Indigenous Protected Areas, Indigenous Heritage, World Heritage, Indigenous Repatriation and Research Ethics Committees.

“The Wet Tropics is very important to me, it is the home of my ancestors with my apical family headed up by Queen Maggie. My mother was born on the beach on the northern side of the Daintree River heads.”


As we speak, she is keen to talk up the recently released WTMA sustainable tourism plan.

“The Wet Tropics Management Authority has released its Wet Tropics Sustainable Tourism Plan 2021-2031,”Miss Grant says. “The plan focuses on visitors’ unique experience in the Wet Tropics, and it’s outstanding natural and cultural values. Through making genuine and mutually beneficial connections with nature, rainforest aboriginal peoples and our inspiring storytellers, visitors will leave feeling enriched and become important advocates for the place.”

“The Wet Tropics world heritage area is the oldest living tropical rainforest in the world,” Ms Grant says. “The opportunity for people around the world to experience that, is what we are after and what we would like to share with those people coming to Australia.”

“The Wet Tropics sustainable tourism plan focuses on looking at the protection of the area’s natural and cultural values, rainforest aboriginal people’s tourism opportunities, establishing a foundation for cultural respect, building industry resilience, and delivering exceptional visitor experiences through guide programs and the world class presentation of the area.”

Another recent development supports this view. In September 2021, ownership of the Daintree National Park, along with three other National Parks in the far north, was handed over to the traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku-Yalanji rainforest people. Ms Grant explains what this means:

“There will be programs developed that will help Kuku-Yalanji people to develop their own economic businesses through tourism operations,” she says.

With the development of a new tourism hub, training for Eastern Kuku-Yalanji people to work in the tourism sector, programs for indigenous tourism enterprises and the creation of a Tourism Advisory Group, the handover will see increased indigenous involvement in the management of the National Park as well as an increased presence in the tourism industry.

Over the next five years, the indigenous owners will work with National Parks in joint management of the Daintree. After five years, it’s hoped that the region will solely come under the management of the Eastern Kuku-Yalanji people.

“We want to be to be able to have sole management of the National Parks,” Ms Grant says. “The work we need to do now is to focus on the kids in schools, so that pathways are available for their training and work experience in the industry of management of the National Parks.”

Chrissy Grant encourages people who are staying in Port Douglas to make sure they venture beyond the town’s excellent dining experiences.

“I would recommend visiting the world’s oldest living rainforest, the Daintree, and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature and learn about the rainforest from an Aboriginal perspective,” she says.

The southern area of the Daintree National Park is easily accessed at Mossman Gorge where visitors can access beautiful freshwater swimming holes, take the rainforest circuit walk, and have genuine indigenous experiences with local guides at the Mossman Gorge Centre.

North of the Daintree River the options expand. Take a tour, or better still, stay a few nights, drive the four-wheel drive only Bloomfield Track, indulge  in fresh seafood, amazing ice-cream, tropical fruit tasting, and other foodie delights, or just bask in the rich lush deep green tropical rainforest by the side of swimming hole.

If the Daintree is the heart of the Wet Tropics, then it’s fair to say, with an experienced chair like Chrissy Grant at the helm and increased involvement of local indigenous rainforest people in the management and preservation of the region, that the heart beats strongly.


“Long considered the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Queensland’s tourism sites, the Daintree is home to cassowaries and tree-kangaroos, fan palm groves and isolated palm- tree lined beaches”