After a 21-year battle, the Traditional Owners of Jabiru are celebrating their native title rights and interests being successfully recognised under Australian law.
The Federal Court held a special on-country hearing on Friday to recognise the Mirarr people as the native title holders over the Jabiru township, about 250km south-east of Darwin.
Yvonne Margarula, a senior Traditional Owner who is carrying on the legacy from her late father, and five other senior women were presented with hard copies of the native title determination.
Ms Margarula filed an application for native title with the Federal Court on behalf of the Mirarr people in 1997, making it one of the longest running land claims in the Northern Territory’s history.
“This is a very important for us Mirarr, we have waited a very long time," Traditional Owner Simon Mudjandi said at the hearing.
"It’s good to have finally have this native title as Traditional Owners of this town and surrounding areas,"
The Mirarr estate extends beyond Jabiru to include the areas currently affected by the Ranger uranium mine and the Jabiluka mineral lease.
The application area covers around 13 square kilometres of the Jabiru township, with the determination a significant step in ensuring the Mirarr are represented in the future of the town as the uranium mine ceases operations.
Jabiru is a small town surrounded by and part of the World-Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.
It was established in 1982 to service the needs of the nearby ranger uranium mine and provide accommodation for workers.
Samuel Bush-Blanasi, chair of the Northern Land Council, said the claim is part of a bigger struggle by the Mirarr people.
“Back then it was the government saying "we give you land rights you give as mining", today this native title proves the Mirarr are the Traditional Owners of Jabiru and assure that its Australian law,” he said.
“From here we hope to see the handback the town of Jabiru as Aboriginal land. The future of Jabiru is important to the Mirarr and people across the Kakadu region.”
'Today's outcome is the right one'
The people of Kakadu and Jabiru have found a sympathetic ear in Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
While not yet committing funds to the proposed master-plan of the Mirarr people, the PM said he and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion have been working together on the future of Kakadu.
Mr Scullion said the determination is a "hard-fought, deserved outcome."
“Today’s outcome is the right one. The Mirrar people know that and we know that. Their persistence and determination has paid off.”
“They are the true owners of the lands in the north of the Northern Territory.”
Simon Mudjandi said the Mirarr are looking forward to making Jabiru ‘a place that we are proud to show people.”
“We are working with the Northern Territory and the Australian governments to make this plan become a reality, we want to make sure Jabiru is a great town for many people and for tourists, lots of people know about Kakadu, they know it is important World-Heritage country – we Mirarr people want to show them how special this country is,” he said.
“We want people to come and learn about our people and culture.”
The determination gives effect to Justice Mansfield’s judgement in 2016 that the Mirarr hold native title rights over the area with hearings beginning in 2013 into whether any executive or legislative acts since European settlement had extinguished native title in the area.
- with AAP