Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (September 2010)
Gregory returned to its owners
Covering 1.3 million hectares, Jutpurra is the Northern Territory’s biggest park and home to the traditional estates of seven language groups.
It was handed back to its traditional owners during a ceremony at Jasper Gorge near Timber Creek in May.
“Today I am pleased to announce that the release of the draft Joint Management Plan for this magnificent park is open for public consultation,” Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage Karl Hampton said last month.
Mr Hampton thanked the Central and Northern Land councils for their invaluable assistance in the preparation of the plan.
“Joint management means sharing responsibility and sharing knowledge; of science and Indigenous knowledge of land management,” Mr Hampton said.
“The value of joint management is evident in the success of places like Nitmiluk National Park, and with joint management in place I am sure many more will join the 21,000 tourists who visit Gregory every year.
“This will allow Aboriginal people to keep their culture strong while creating on-going economic opportunities for their children through conservation or tourism enterprise.”
The handback to traditional owners saw the National Park leased back to Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife for 99 years under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
Traditional owners also agreed on a name change, with land formerly known as Gregory National Park now known as Jutpurra.
Existing Aboriginal land on the Wambardi Land Trust was also to be leased back to the Park, effectively increasing its size and linking up its eastern and western sections.
Speaking at the ceremony in May, the NLC’s Chairman Wali Wunungmurra said the handback would ensure tourists could still enjoy the park.
“Today’s handover will ensure travellers from across Australia and around the world can continue to experience its many wonders,” he said.
“The agreement with the Territory Government ushers in a new era of joint management for Jutpurra National Park, which will open up a range of opportunities for traditional owners.”
Mr Wunungmurra said the handover would lead to new opportunities for traditional owners to gain employment with Parks and Wildlife, undertake contract work within the park and to develop tourism ventures.
“The NLC is actively training rangers across the Top End and today’s milestone will open up more opportunities for Indigenous peoples to work and live on their country.”
CLC Director David Ross said the handback and subsequent joint management arrangements are extremely significant for traditional owners.
“For years people have had to stand on the sidelines while other people made decisions about their traditional country,” he said.
“Now, with these joint management arrangements, people will be asked about future developments on their land, about the use of it, about access to it – this is the crux of joint management.”
The CLC has formed a pilot ranger program in Daguragu and is ready to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Jutpurra National Park.