Vernon Islands Handed Back

Date: Jun 1, 2018

The Vernon Islands have been officially returned to the Mantiyupwi Tiwi people, 40 years after the land claim was lodged.

The three islands, located between the Tiwi Islands and Darwin, north of Gunn Point, were handed back in a ceremony on Bathurst Island on 12 March 2018.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion delivered the deed of grant to traditional owners, recognising the enduring connection of the Mantiyupwi Tiwi people to the Vernon Islands. 

It brings to a close Australia’s second longest-running land claim.

“Today we mark an end of a long journey of recognition for the Vernon Islands land claim and celebrate a start of an exciting new chapter in the lives of the Mantiyupwi Tiwi people,” Minister Scullion said.

“We’re giving back land that was always yours in any event.”

Andrew Tipungwuti, acting CEO of the Tiwi Land Council, said: “It’s a long wait but it’s a great achievement. Sadly all our past leaders who fought for this are no longer with us, but I think for the newer generation, it is achievable to get that acknowledgment.”  

NLC Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi attended the ceremony on behalf of the Northern Land Council. 

The claim was lodged by the Northern Land Council on 31 March 1978 on behalf of the Larrakia people. At the land claim hearing in 2008, it was the Mantiyupwi Tiwi people who were able to prove they were the Traditional Owners under the Land Rights Act. Larrakia people can exercise their rights pursuant to section 71 of the Act, which allows those with traditional rights to use or occupy that land in accordance with Aboriginal tradition. 

Permit-free access to intertidal waters around the Vernon Islands has been maintained under a settlement between the Tiwi Land Council, the Tiwi Aboriginal Land Trust and the Northern Territory Government.