• Yolngu man, Djambawa Marawili leads other traditional owners from Blue Mud Bay the High Court to hear the result of their claim, Wednesday, Dec 5, 2007. (AAP)Source: AAP
Traditional Owners of Blue Mud Bay say they were excluded from a meeting between the Northern Territory government and the Northern Land Council regarding fishing access to their Country.
Douglas Smith

28 Jun 2019 - 9:39 AM  UPDATED 28 Jun 2019 - 3:12 PM

The Northern Lands Council has agreed on a settlement with the Northern Territory Government for commercial and recreational fishing access on Aboriginal-owned waters, but traditional owners say that should not have been decided without them.

Yolngu man, Djambawa Marawili AM lives in [Blue Mud Bay] and told NITV News on Thursday that he and other traditional owners and leaders were “very upset” and “disappointed” they had not received an invitation, as the council and Government made “landmark decisions about the future of our Country.”  

“How come they can be talking for those people who are living on real country, and not on other people’s country, how could they speak for our point of view where we have our own way of planning and thinking and to work on our country,” said Mr Marawili.

“Why do we have to rely to them, where they are including themselves and they are making themselves that they own the bays and the rivers and the patterns and the design and the song-lines and the sacred objects?

“That is not the Yolngu way, not the Aboriginal way.

“We were all very disappointed, Yolngu to Yolngu,” he said.

“If they representing Yolngu people, Indigenous Yolngu people in East Arnhem Land of Blue Mud Bay, then they should really invite us."

Earlier in the week, Mr Marawili sent a letter to the NLC expressing how he and other traditional owners and leaders were “surprised” they did not receive an invite to the historic settlement which took place in Katherine on Wednesday.  

In response, the Northern Lands Council's chief executive officer, Marion Scrymgour, said "the NLC considered that the involvement of yourself and other leaders would more appropriately occur later in the process.”

The NLC's response also proposed a meeting with Traditional Owners be held on 17 July.


On the 11th anniversary of the High Court giving the land and waters of Blue Mud Bay back to the Yolngu people, Traditional Owners from across NT have signed an agreement that will allow permit-free fishing access to Aboriginal-owned waters for the next 18-months.  

The original decision sparked an ongoing battle between fishers and the Northern Territory Government.

At the settlement on Wednesday, the Territory Government, Amateur Fishermen’s Association, the Guided Fishing Industry Association and the NT Seafood Council signed the agreement which promises Traditional Owners real benefits from the 2008 Mud Bay decision.

Ms Scrymgour said she was delighted the matter was finally being resolved and that she believed the “package will genuinely assist reconciliation.”  

“More importantly, we recognise that this Heads of Agreement wouldn’t have happened without the hard work and commitment from the traditional Aboriginal owners of sea country in the NT,” she said in a statement.

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