MOVING FORWARD: The Butchulla people's compensation claim could be a watershed moment for management of Fraser Island.
MOVING FORWARD: The Butchulla people's compensation claim could be a watershed moment for management of Fraser Island. Alistair Brightman

OPINION: Fraser Island claim about looking forward, not back

HOW do you put a price on culture?

Sometimes the answer is clear - a painting has a certain value and a piece of music earns its composer a fixed amount of money.

In other cases, such as the compensation claim the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation is preparing, the answer is not so obvious.

After a landmark $2.5million settlement in the Northern Territory town of Timber Creek, the Butchulla people are gearing up for a similar fight over K'gari, or Fraser Island.

Calls to "get over it" and accusations of chasing a government hand-out seem almost inevitable.

The irony is, though, the Butchulla people are not simply dwelling on the past - they are doing what they can to move forward.

They want to build on the work already being done and work alongside other groups to manage the island they hold so dear.

Butchulla rangers play an important role on the island and indigenous education is at the heart of tourism experiences.

This claim could be the catalyst for more positive change.

Because simply acknowledging traditional ownership and saying sorry for past wrongs is not enough.

There needs to be real partnership between traditional owners and current managers to see K'gari, or Fraser Island, flourish for everyone.