Today, almost 10,000 square kilometres of land in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park has been handed back to the Aboriginal Traditional Custodians in a historic ceremony in the Northern Territory.
Four separate land claims have been in place for several decades over land that makes up around half of the national park, including the Yellow Water Billabong and large sections of the western side of the park.
Today the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, delivered the deeds of title to local Elders, in a ceremony held at Cooinda Lodge in the park itself.
This hand over gives the Traditional Custodians greater control over developments on the land, agency over land care, and formally recognises that they’ve called the Kakadu region home for over 60,000 years.
‘The granting of this land recognises this in law, giving Traditional Owners 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,’ said Minister Wyatt.
The land handed back is the traditional country of multiple different peoples, including the Limilngan/Minitja, Wurngomgu, Bolmo, Bunidj, Djindibi, Wurrkbarbar, Murumburr, Garndidjbal, Yurlkmanj, Matjba, Uwinymil, Mirrar Gundjeihmi and Dadjbaku peoples.
Now, most of the park is officially and legally in the hands of the Traditional Custodians, with around half of the park being handed back in previous years.
The park will now be leased to the Director of National Parks for an undisclosed amount that will go directly to the Traditional Custodians.
In addition to the four land handovers in Kakadu National Park today, another two occurred near the town of Mataranka, involving the Old Elsey Homestead and the Urupunga Township.
Feature photo thanks to @huntingforparadise