Kakadu's Traditional Owners celebrated the long-awaited return of their ancestral lands following the delivery of the Deeds of Title to large tracts of the Kakadu National Park.
At a ceremony held at Cooinda on Thursday March 24, 2022, Minister for Indigenous Australians the Honourable Ken Wyatt AM MP, handed back to Traditional Owners and their families the inalienable freehold title over four land claim areas comprising about 50 per cent of the Park.
Northern Land Council Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi congratulated Traditional Owners on the long-awaited return of their country following the settlement of the Kakadu Region Land Claims.
"Today's land grants to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust, to be held on behalf of the Traditional Owners, completes 45 years of unfinished business," Mr Bush-Blanasi said.
"Back in 1977, the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry recommended the recognition of the land in the Alligator Rivers Region - what we know as stage one, Kakadu National Park - as Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
"For too long there have been two classes of land in Kakadu National Park - Aboriginal land and other land 'subject to Aboriginal land claim'. Today that has been fixed once and for all time.
"This land that has been returned is the traditional country of the Limilngan/Minitja, Murumburr, Garndidjbal, Yurlkmanj, Wurngomgu, Bolmo, Wurrkbarbar, Matjba, Uwinymil, Bunidj, Djindibi, Mirrar Gundjeihmi and Dadjbaku peoples."
Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP said land security was economic security, and this move empowered Aboriginal Territorians to use their land for their future.
"The granting of this land recognises this in law, giving traditional owners a seat a say in the management of their land. It affords Aboriginal people the right to assert their cultural authority and to build partnerships to manage their land for the ongoing benefit of their communities.
"These handbacks go directly towards target 15 of the National Agreement of Closing the Gap that seeks to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples legal rights or interests in land and sea Country by 15 per cent.
"These Deeds are a testament to the hand work of the Traditional Owners, the Northern Land Council and good faith negotiation from Parks Australia and the Northern Territory Government to reach an agreement that all parties can celebrate."
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Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, said the handback was an important milestone in the history of the iconic Kakadu National Park.
"These four land handbacks will now bring nearly all the land within Kakadu National Park under Aboriginal ownership," Minister Ley said.
"They mark another important step towards a strong ongoing partnership between Traditional Owners and Parks Australia, as we work towards a stronger Indigenous voice in the joint management of Kakadu National Park."
Mr Bush-Blanasi said the return of land to the Traditional Owners heralds a range of new and exciting opportunities.
"The resolution of the underlying land title will allow for new investment and tourism opportunities. We are already seeing the development of more locally-owned and operated Aboriginal tourism and other business enterprises in Kakadu.
"There are new opportunities for Traditional Owners to be directing, involved in and to benefit from improved and enhanced park operations, fire abatement programs and the new carbon economy. These are just a few examples.
"Traditional Owners can also take better care of their country through improved joint management and cultural site protection and by caring for their country as only they know how to. There will be wonderful opportunities for cultural revitalisation and to celebrate the living cultural traditions of the traditional owners," Mr Bush-Blanasi said.
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