The efforts to involve Aboriginal people in the development of a management plan for a newly created World Heritage Area (WHA) in northern Queensland are examined. Although the management agency expended considerable effort to encourage the participation of local Aboriginal people the program was flawed and served to marginalise some Aboriginal groups from the management of their traditional lands. The management agency failed to understand the nature of contemporary and traditional Aboriginal social organisation. Insensitivity to the diverse nature of Aboriginal social organisation, and ignorance of the complexity of Aboriginal representation, rendered the interests of some groups with traditional interests invisible to the management agency. Because the management agency uncritically accepted the claims to a mandate for regional representation by one Aboriginal lobby group, this group was able to assume a dominant position in liaising with the management agency.