Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Historic Gove Agreement to Deliver Long Term Benefits for North-East Arnhem Land

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Julia Gillard, Prime Minister
    The Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health & Regional Services Delivery
    Member for Lingiari
    Hon Paul Raymond Henderson, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory

Prime Minister Julia Gillard today witnessed an historic agreement reached between Indigenous leaders in the Northern Territory’s Gove region and mining giant Rio Tinto Alcan.

The agreement secures the future operations of the Gove mine while providing a range of economic and employment benefits for the traditional owners.

Significantly, the Agreement ends years of historical grievances.

It is the first negotiated agreement with traditional owners in relation to the Gove mining operations since exploration began in the 1960s.

The Prime Minister today joined traditional owners, representatives from the Northern Land Council, Rio Tinto Alcan and the Northern Territory Government in Yirrkala to celebrate the signing of the Rio Tinto Alcan Gove Traditional Owners Agreement.

This is a historic day for the Gumatj, Rirratjingu and Galpu peoples of north east Arnhem Land and for all Yolngu.

Senior traditional owners Galarrwuy Yunupingu of the Gumatj clan and Bakamumu Marika of the Rirratjingu clan are to be congratulated for their vision for their people.

They have worked with Rio Tinto Alcan to negotiate an agreement that will deliver significant long-term benefits to all residents of the region and in particular to the Yolngu people of north east Arnhem Land.

The Agreement has been designed so payments from mining will be principally managed through two traditional owner entities, the Gumatj Future Fund and the Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation.

This will ensure payments are directed to projects that support local communities, by providing sustainable economic development and promoting local culture.

The traditional owner entities also demonstrate good governance principles including independent directors with relevant professional skills, access to expert advisers and constraints on individual cash payments.

Other benefits to flow from the Agreement include a range of traditional owner funded construction projects at Nhulunbuy, such as medical, retail and residential developments.

In addition, the Agreement provides employment opportunities for Yolngu people across the region and opportunities for Indigenous owned companies to act as contractors for construction projects.

This new Agreement redresses long standing grievances associated with the commencement of mining, which originally occurred without Aboriginal consent.

It paves the way for a range of financial, contractual, asset and employment benefits for traditional owners.

The Australian Government strongly supports the negotiation of agreements that provide long-term intergenerational benefits to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

This constructive approach enables government, industry and communities to work together in closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage.