Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Groote Eylandt supports 99 year township leases

“A new era of opportunity in the Groote Eylandt region of the Northern Territory was emerging following in principle agreement of the local Anindilyakwa people to enter into a 99 year lease,” Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, announced today.

“After extensive negotiations with the people of Groote Eylandt and nearby Bickerton Island, agreement in principal has been reached for a 99 year leases over the townships of Angurugu, Umbakumba and Milyakburra.”

The Minister said the lease would be a part of a broad Regional Partnership Agreement which includes:

  • 99 year leases over the three Aboriginal townships in the region;
  • increased community safety by construction of police accommodation at Umbakumba and use of a sniffer dog drug unit;
  • 22 new houses to be built in the three townships within 2 years as well as repairs and maintenance on existing housing stock;
  • an upgrade of health facilities;
  • grants for a cultural centre and a local construction company;
  • a new coordinated focus on jobs and training; and
  • research to document the current state of the communities, to review education needs in the region and to consider further options for dealing with health issues.

The total Australian Government funding could be as high as almost $20 million and the Indigenous communities are contributing a total of $10 million towards employee housing, the dugong beach resort, a school breakfast and lunch program and for 15 students to attend boarding schools.

“This is the first stage of an ongoing regional partnership process which has established land reform as a fundamental building block for a new Groote Eylandt region. We will build on these commitments through the second stage of negotiations, including responding to the findings of reviews and research we have agreed to commission,” Mr Brough said.

The in principle agreement to enter into 99 year lease is subject to the statutory process of checks and balances set out in the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act. If that process establishes 99 year leases, the three townships will not be affected by the 5 year leases announced as part of the emergency intervention to protect Indigenous children in the NT.

The Minister today urged the Northern Territory Government to be full partners in the endeavour.

“Lasting solutions for the people of the Groote Eylandt region demand full participation from both the Northern Territory and the Australian Government, especially now that we have agreed on fundamental land reform.

“I compliment Mr Tony Wurramarba, Chairman of the Anindilyakwa Land Council and his fellow Councillors for their vision and determination to provide a better future for the Anindilyakwa people.”