‘A great day’: Jabiru now in Mirarr hands

Date: Sep 16, 2021

Publication Type: Blog

Subject: Newspaper

For four decades the Mirarr people have been calling for the town of Jabiru, inside Kakadu National Park, to be returned to its rightful custodians.

Mirarr Traditional Owners May Nango and Yvonne Margarula.

THE Mirarr Traditional Owners are "very happy and proud" that the long fight for recognition of Traditional Ownership at Jabiru has culminated in the grant of freehold title under the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act

“This is a great day for Mirarr people,” said Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula. 

“The handing back of Jabiru to Mirarr recognises our land rights here and gives us economic independence. We are excited for the future of Jabiru and for the future of all our people,” she said. 

At the ceremony in Jabiru on 26 June, NLC Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi joined the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley, local politicians and the community to officially grant the freehold title to the Mirarr.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt and Environment Minister Sussan Ley with Mirarr Traditional Owners.

“Today we celebrate a great event,” Mr Bush-Blanasi said. 

“The return of the land Jabiru sits on to its Traditional Owners, the Mirarr people. 

“Myself, and fellow NLC members, are proud to be part of the rightful handback of this land to the Mirarr. Correcting a deliberate act a generation ago to deny the Mirarr recognition of their land ownership under Balanda law. 

“This is the first time that land, not already part of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act estate, has been returned to Traditional Owners for them to manage as a town; to be central to what happens on their land. 

“I thank the Mirarr for allowing us to share this significant milestone with the wider community and I acknowledge their journey and connection to this country as the original custodians.”

Brian Pedwell, Chris Neade, Joe Martin-Jard and Richard Dixon.

The fight for land rights at Jabiru commenced in 1978 when the town was built on what was then Crown land without the involvement of Traditional Owners. 

The senior Mirarr elder at the time, Toby Gangale, is the father of today’s Senior Traditional Owner Ms Margarula. In 1998, Ms Margarula lodged the Jabiru native title claim, which was decided by the Federal Court in 2016 after one of Australia’s longest-running native title matters. 

At an early stage, the Mirarr confirmed their wish that Jabiru should become Aboriginal land and have a bright future as the centre for regional services, tourism and for all Kakadu.