The history of the creation of Booderee National Park, as we see it today, is a unique and interesting journey. Great understanding was required from the many different stakeholders, to preserve this stunning area for future generations.
The first European settlement of Jervis Bay started in the early 1880s. At the beginning of the 20th Century Booderee was used for agriculture – farming and forestry. Jervis Bay Territory is unusual, in that it became Commonwealth territory in 1915 so the national government based in Canberra could have access to the sea. A desire to protect Booderee’s unique natural and cultural history didn’t really start until the early 1970s.
In 1951, the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens were declared as a frost-free annex of the Australian National Botanic Gardens. In 1971, the Jervis Bay Nature Reserve, made up of two thirds of the Jervis Bay Territory, was declared a public park. The reserve constituted two thirds of the Territory (4470 hectares) and was declared a public park under the ACT Public Parks Ordinance 1928. The ACT Parks and Conservation Service managed the reserve. In 1975, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation recommended that the Jervis Bay Nature Reserve be extended to include all areas of Jervis Bay Territory not reserved for use by the Department of Defence.
Further extensions of the reserve system occurred in the 1980s. In 1985, Bowen Island was declared a nature reserve under the ACT Nature Conservation Ordinance 1980. Also in 1985, the area of land around the Bay foreshore, which had been Defence land managed by the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, was declared as a nature reserve under the Public Parks Act 1928. Both these areas were included in the Jervis Bay Nature Reserve.
On 4 March 1992 the Jervis Bay Nature Reserve, additional Commonwealth lands and the waters of Jervis Bay Territory, were proclaimed as the Jervis Bay National Park under the parks Act. The title to the land vested in the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and the Director of National Parks, now known as Parks Australia, took responsibility for it, taking over management responsibility from the ACT Parks and Conservation Service shortly after.
In 1995 Jervis Bay National Park and the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens were conferred on the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, to be leased back to the Director of National Parks to be jointly managed as a national park and botanic gardens. In 1997 the council renamed the park Booderee.
With the establishment of the Nature Reserve in 1971, conflict over land rights increased. The Reserve incorporated areas historically used by the Wreck Bay Community. This conflict and the Wreck Bay people's commitment to pursing ownership of their land, came to a head in 1979 with a demonstration on Australia Day at the popular public use area at Summercloud Bay, adjacent to the Wreck Bay village.
In March 1987, the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council was granted inalienable freehold title to 403 hectares of land under the Aboriginal Land Grant (Jervis Bay Territory) Act 1986 (Land Grant Act). The Council was established as a body corporate under the Land Grant Act to hold title to land granted in accordance with the Land Grant Act.
In 1993 and 1994, the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council pursued further land grants in the Territory - the area of the park and the Gardens. However, as the areas were vested in the Director, they were not considered 'vacant Crown land' and could not be granted without amendments to the Land Grant Act and the parks Act. The process also required the area to be recognised as 'significant' to the Wreck Bay people and that the grant was 'appropriate'.
The 'significance' of the area and the 'appropriateness' of the grant were determined and negotiations were undertaken between the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council and the Commonwealth for the park and the Gardens to be leased back to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife.
Amendments to the Land Grant Act and the parks Act were passed by Federal Parliament in 1995. Subsequently, title to the Jervis Bay National Park and the Jervis Bay Botanic Gardens was conferred on the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, provided these areas were leased back to the Director of National Parks, to be managed as a national park and botanic gardens. A memorandum of lease between the Director of National Parks and the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council was signed in December 1995. The lease agreement provides for the park and Gardens to be jointly managed between the Director and the Council, in accordance with the parks Act and a management plan and consistent with decisions of a Board of Management. The Booderee National Park Board of Management was first established in 1996 under the parks Act.
In 1997, in line with provisions of the lease, the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council chose Booderee National Park and Booderee Botanic Gardens as the new name for the park and Gardens. 'Booderee' is an Aboriginal word from the Dhurga language meaning 'bay of plenty' or 'plenty of fish'.
The parks Act was replaced by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) on 16 July 2000. This change did not alter the status of the park, the lease agreement or the management arrangements.
The park now covers an area of 6312 hectares, which includes 875 hectares of marine environment. The Botanic Gardens zone is 80 hectares in area.
With land ownership passing to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, the Booderee Botanic Gardens' relationship with the Australian National Botanic Gardens altered significantly. In recognition of these changes, through proclamation in May 2000, Booderee Botanic Gardens ceased to be a part of the Australian National Botanic Gardens and were added to the area of the Booderee National Park. For practical management reasons, the Booderee Botanic Gardens have been managed as part of the administration responsible for Booderee National Park since 1995. The amended proclamations did not alter that arrangement although the Gardens are now treated as a separate management zone.