Gregory National Park returned to traditional owners
The Australian Government today returned Gregory National Park and Gregory’s Tree Historical Reserve in the Northern Territory to their traditional Indigenous owners.
The Governor-General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce, and the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, handed over the title deeds of the National Park at a ceremony at Jasper Gorge, approximately 350 kilometres south of Darwin.
Today’s hand-back is another significant and historic step forward in acknowledging and respecting the continuing cultural attachment Aboriginal people have to their land.
Gregory National Park, comprising about 13,000 square kilometres, is the largest of 13 Northern Territory parks which were subject to native title claim before a landmark agreement was negotiated in 2004.
Under this agreement, traditional owners, the Northern Territory and Australian Governments agreed that the land would be scheduled as Aboriginal freehold under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and leased back to the Northern Territory for 99 years for use as a national park.
The national park will be subject to a joint management plan that involves the traditional owners. It will contribute to making the Northern Territory parks estate world class.
Joint management arrangements will ensure the traditional owners have a say in the management and operation of the parks.
It will also help strengthen the relationship between Indigenous and other Australians. While the underlying title to the land will rest with the traditional Aboriginal owners, the land will continue to be available for all Australians and international visitors to enjoy as national park.
Today’s ceremony took place not far from Dagaragu on Gurindiji land, the birthplace of Indigenous land rights in the Northern Territory.
In 1966, Gurindiji stockmen walked off Wave Hill Station as a protest against the work and pay conditions, beginning the eight-year fight by the Gurindji people to obtain title to their land.
The Wave Hill walk off would eventually reshape the relationship between Indigenous Australians and the wider community. The historic strike, along with the bark petition from Yirrkala, led the Whitlam Labor Government to prepare the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
The legislation was ultimately passed by the Fraser Government in 1976, a monument to the bipartisan commitment of the major political parties to recognising and acknowledging the justice of Aboriginal claims for recognition of their land rights.
Gregory’s Tree Historical Reserve is an Aboriginal sacred site and registered heritage site which was the base camp for Augustus Gregory’s 1855-1856 North Australia Expedition.