Traditional Owners in the Northern Territory township of Jabiru have welcomed legislation introduced to Parliament by Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt that makes changes to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation CEO Justin O’Brien said this legislation will allow the Mirarr Traditional Owners to lead the way in transforming the mining town, which is located within Kakadu, into a tourism hub.
“The legislation that was introduced to the Parliament allows for a community entity to be established by the Traditional Owners, the Mirarr, and then they can implement their vision and master plan for the town and the region,” he told NITV News.
“That vision and master plan is all about a new, sustainable kind of tourism and regional services across the Kakadu area.”
In introducing the Bill to Parliament, Mr Wyatt said the legislation will pave the way to an Indigenous-led future.
“With the closure of the nearby Ranger uranium mine by January 2021, the expiry of the remaining Jabiru leasing arrangements in June 2021, the Mirarr Traditional Owners have developed a master plan, setting out their plans for Jabiru as a world-leading ecology, sustainable, economically and socially vibrant community where traditional Aboriginal culture, the local economy, the tourism industry, and natural environment flourish,” he said.
If the amendment is passed, it would mean the lease of Jabiru could be held by a community entity of the Mirarr Traditional Owners for up to 99 years.
Mr O’Brien said this would allow the Mirarr people to be in control of development in the area.
“This will mean something more genuine for the visitor and something definitely more genuine for the Traditional Owners,” Mr O’Brien said.
The newest legislation is part of the Federal Government’s $216 million pledge to revitalising Jabiru and Kakadu.
Mr O’Brien said he’s been discussing an early release of these funds so that work on the project, which will include a world heritage visitor’s centre, hotel and crocodile-proof swimming area, can start sooner rather than later.
We are using the Coronavirus downtime we’ve got,” he said.
“It’s a big deal and a lot of construction. It’s very, very exciting. We want to see that we can come out of this down time with Coronavirus, really ready.
“Let’s try for 2021, let’s get some building done in 2021, and what a good signal to send, that you’re dealing with Traditional Owners, you’re honouring your commitment under self-determination.
“You’re enabling control back to countrymen, you’re boosting tourism, you’re boosting the economy of the Northern Territory and the nation.
“It’s a great reconciliation moment if we can all stay the course here.”