Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

50th anniversary of the Yirrkala Bark Petitions

Joint Media Release with:

  • Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

    Warren Snowdon
    Minister for Indigenous Health and Member for Lingiari

The Rudd Government today marked the 50th anniversary of the Yirrkala bark petitions, documents which helped drive the recognition of land rights and the process of reconciliation in our country.

In July 1963, the Yolngu people from the Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory sent two bark petitions to the Australian Parliament.

These petitions sought recognition of their rights to their traditional lands and voiced opposition to mining exploration in the area.

Although not successful in halting mining operations, the Yirrkala bark petitions were significant as the first traditional documents to be tabled in the Australian Parliament, and today they are rightly counted among the founding documents of our nation.

To support Aboriginal people in East Arnhem Land to live and drive economic development on their homelands, the Rudd Government is today announcing a $4.3 million investment in the Laynhapuy and Marngarr homelands.

This investment will provide for works to make housing safer, help residents to reduce their energy consumption and improve the safety and reliability of the local water supply.

Importantly, the sustainable living project will help drive local employment and business enterprises, through partnerships with local Aboriginal organisations to deliver the works.

The project will be managed by the Centre for Appropriate Technology, with the help of a local steering committee.

The Government funding will also help to employ a local coordinator to ensure that the interests of the Laynhapuy and Marngarr homelands are better represented.

The coordinator will play an important role in negotiating and implementing a plan with the Government to address key areas of disadvantage.

The Government is also investing more than $20.5 million to build or upgrade more than 110 houses in the communities of Yirrkala and Gunyangara in East Arnhem Land.

Through the Government’s Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package, 62 existing houses in Yirrkala will be upgraded. Additionally, up to 30 new houses will be built through the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH).

In Gunyangara, 21 existing houses will be upgraded and six houses will be replaced with new houses.

This investment in housing infrastructure is also providing local employment opportunities for Aboriginal people in Yirrkala and Gunyangara. The National Partnership Agreement has a 20 per cent target for Indigenous employment in the delivery of new housing construction, which it has exceeded in every state and the Northern Territory.

The Laynhapuy and Marngarr homelands project builds on the Rudd Government’s continued support for making outstations and homelands across the Northern Territory safe, including:

  • $206.4 million for the provision of municipal and essential services in the Northern Territory over 10 years as part of the Stronger Futures package.
  • $4.3 million for the Utopia homelands sustainable living project as part of the Stronger Futures package.

The Rudd Government is also committed to land rights in the Northern Territory. Since 2007, the Government has handed back 42,225 square kilometres of land under the Land Rights Act, more than 12 times the area of land handed back between 2002 and 2007.