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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4417


Ms MACKLIN (JagajagaMinister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform) (10:36): Through this bill the government is continuing its commitment to make sure that Aboriginal people's ongoing connection to their land is recognised by scheduling further parcels of Northern Territory land as Aboriginal land—in particular, by adding the existing Jabiru town land and certain adjacent portions of Northern Territory land to schedule 1 to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 so that this bill will benefit traditional owners, residents and business operators in Jabiru and the wider Kakadu region. Notably the bill will also provide significant economic development opportunities to the traditional owners.

These amendments stem from the landmark agreement struck in November 2009 to resolve the Jabiru native title claim, the longest running native title claim in the history of the Northern Territory. This scheduling measure is intended to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between the parties to that native title claim and it recognises the traditional ownership of Jabiru by the Mirrar people. By adding the Jabiru town land and certain adjacent portions of land to the land rights legislation, the amendments will allow the ownership of the claimed land to be transferred from the Director of National Parks to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust, which will hold the land on trust for its traditional owners.

As also provided by the bill, the land will not be granted as Aboriginal land until leaseback arrangements for the Jabiru town plan and the two adjacent non-township portions are put in place. The Mirrar traditional owners have already agreed to immediate leaseback of the Jabiru land. This will be done through long-term leases to be granted to the Director of National Parks, the Northern Territory and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation nominated by the Northern Land Council. The two adjacent portions of land will also be leased to the Director of National Parks. The newly leased land will remain part of Kakadu National Park and the Kakadu world heritage area and the bill provides for the preservation of Kakadu's world heritage and other natural and cultural values in relation to the town.

Amendments are also made to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These amendments relate to the proper development of Jabiru into the future in accordance with the leases, the management plan for Kakadu and a town plan approved by the Director of National Parks.

Jabiru has established itself as a thriving township that services Kakadu National Park as a tourist destination as well as the nearby Ranger uranium mine. However, business operators in Jabiru have expressed legitimate concerns that, given the expiration of the current head lease in 2021, the future tenure arrangements for Jabiru are unclear. As a result, there has been a reluctance to invest in the town.

This bill will deliver long-term certainty and security of land tenure for Jabiru. Importantly for current interest holders in Jabiru, this bill ensures that existing leases, subleases and other interests will be preserved following transfer of ownership to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust. We are very pleased to build on this proud record and particularly to advance the resolution of the Jabiru native title claim by introducing this bill. The bill also adds a further parcel of land for Patta to schedule 1 to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. A 2010 amending act previously inserted five portions of land known as Patta in the Northern Territory into schedule 1. This new amendment will enable the further parcel to be granted to the relevant Aboriginal land trust. Since 2007, the Australian government has handed back well over 42,000 square kilometres of land under the Land Rights Act, more than 12 times the area of land handed back between 2002 and 2007.

I will shortly be moving amendments to this bill to address the technical issue raised by the Northern Territory government in its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs. The issue arose from the recent lodgement by the Northern Territory with the Surveyor-General of new survey plans of the parcels of land adjacent to Jabiru. The new survey plans update the road corridors which run through the relevant land. Accordingly, the government amendments will update the bill to refer to the new land descriptions in those survey plans and to clarify the situation in relation to roads within the Jabiru town land.

These amendments are consistent with the position reflected elsewhere in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The land on which there is a road over which the public has a right of way is excluded from the grant. I thank all the contributors to the debate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.