Malcolm Turnbull has joined traditional owners near Darwin to hand the title deeds to the Kenbi land claim to traditional owners.
After being welcomed to country by Larrakia men and women, the Prime Minister told the audience at Cox Peninsula that it was a bittersweet day.
“This is both a celebration and a commemoration, a day to celebrate what has been achieved, but also to remember what has been lost,” he said.
Lodged in 1979, The Kenbi claim is one of Australia’s longest-running and biggest land claims.
It was subject to Federal Court reviews and two High Court challenges before being successfully resolved earlier this year.
“It is a story that epitomises the survival and resilience of our First Australians, the survival and resilience of the Larrakia people, for you are the land and the land is you,” Mr Turnbull said.
One of Australia’s biggest and longest-running legal fights
The land claim stretches across the Cox Peninsula on the western side of Darwin Harbour and includes 52,000 hectares for a land trust and 13,000 hectares for free hold land to be used for Indigenous development by the Larrakia and the Belyuen people.
The area is mostly bushland with a coastal perimeter with popular fishing sites, WWII relics, wetlands, large termite mounds and vine forests
The return of the land means it cannot be bought or sold but can be leased with the consent of traditional owners.
“Aboriginal people themselves now have greater opportunity for economic development,” Northern Land Council Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said.
“Caring for this country, looking after the cultural and environmental value will now be the responsibility of the Aboriginal people themselves. We’re all better off for that.”
The Northern Land Council noted the successful land claim was not a happy occasion for all.
“The journey has been stressful for many and I acknowledge many Larrakia remain unhappy about the outcome,’ NLC CEO Joe Morrison said.