Forest part of 400,000 acres of land in northeast handed back to Aboriginal people who have lived in region for thousands of years.

The Daintree Rainforest in Australia — a world-famous travel destination and, at an estimated 180 million years old, one of the world’s oldest forests — was one of four national parks returned to their traditional owners on Wednesday under an agreement signed with the Queensland state government, The New York Times reports.

Nearly 400,000 acres of land in northeast Australia, consisting of dense forests, sprawling mountain ranges and white sand beaches, was handed back to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, believed to have lived in the area for more than 50,000 years.

“The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people’s culture is one of the world’s oldest living cultures 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 in the tourism industry,” Meaghan Scanlon, the Queensland environment minister, said in a statement.

In addition to Daintree, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ngalba-bulal, Kalkajaka and the Hope Islands National Parks will be managed together by the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and Queensland government. The government said in a statement.

As the government handed the land over, Ms. Scanlon acknowledged the “uncomfortable and ugly shared past” in relations with Aboriginal people in the country, and called the agreement “a key step on the path towards reconciliation.”

Australia remains locked in a deep, continuing struggle to right the wrongs of its past — and, by many accounts, its present, as it continues to deny Indigenous people their rights and subject them to discrimination. (Indigenous Australians are those who are Aboriginal or hail from the Torres Strait Islands.)

© Copyright LaPresse