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Kenbi Land Claim: The Chairman of the NLC delivers a speech at the

Samuel Bush-Blanasi, Chairman of the NLC

The Chairman of the NLC, Samuel Bush-Blanasi delivers a speech at the Kenbi Land Claim handback ceremony at Mandorah on June 21 2016

Good morning and welcome.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where we are gathered today, the Tommy Lyons Group.  I acknowledge the Larrakia people and the Belyuen group.

And I welcome our distinguished guests here today:
The Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull and his Indigenous Affairs Minister, Senator Nigel Scullion. Mr Warren Snowdon MP, representing the Leader of the Opposition. The Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles. And I welcome the many other distinguished guests, too many to mention by name.

This is a great day in the history of the Northern Territory. Here we are, more than 37 years after the Northern Land Council first lodged the Kenbi land claim, finally celebrating the handover of title deeds.

Too many people are not with us to witness this historic event because they have passed away too soon.

Only a week ago I was at Yarralin, a small community in the Victoria River District, to witness the handback of 50 thousand hectares of Aboriginal land. That too was an historic event. That Yarralin claim was lodged and heard in 1975, even before the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in December 1976.

So this is the fortieth anniversary of Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory. The Land Rights Act has enabled the return to Aboriginal ownership of half the land mass of the Northern Territory, and more than 85 per cent of the Territory’s coastline. And that has been achieved without the mayhem and social disruption that those who so loudly opposed land rights forecast back in the 1970s and 80s.

The Land Rights Act has delivered justice – a justice largely denied to Aboriginal people in other jurisdictions. We are a more enlightened society in 2016.  The fears about land rights which were so prevalent 40 years ago have been put aside.

And today we should also put aside the disagreements that I acknowledge some Aboriginal people feel about how this Kenbi land claim has been worked out. Today, let us join together in a spirit of real celebration.
The realisation of the Kenbi land claim is a great occasion for us all. This beautiful place we call Cox Peninsula, and the islands to the west, are finally back in Aboriginal hands, and many more Aboriginal people than just the few Traditional Owners will benefit from that.

Aboriginal people themselves now have great opportunities for economic development.

Caring for this country, nurturing its cultural and environmental values, will now be the responsibility of Aboriginal people themselves.

We will all be better off for that.

Getting here has meant hard work by so many staff of the Northern Land Council over the past four decades, and I thank them all for their dedication.  I also thank the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments for their commitment to bringing about final settlement of this claim which has hung over these lands like a dark cloud for far too long.

Thank you.

Samuel Bush-Blanasi
Chairman, Northern Land Council

21 June 2016