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Forestry Tasmania to log Arnhem Land -

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Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

ELEANOR HALL: Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Territory have done a deal with Forestry Tasmania
to log trees in Arnhem Land.

The trees would have been bulldozed to clear the way for Rio Tinto's bauxite mine and the timber
will now be used to build houses in the local Indigenous community. Forestry Tasmania will also
help to train local workers in logging skills.

Felicity Ogilvie has our report.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Arnhem Land in Australia's Top End is slightly bigger than Tasmania and the state
known for its forest industry has joined forces with the Top End's traditional owners to set up
their own timber industry.

Aboriginal leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu has signed a deal with Forestry Tasmania to teach locals how
to harvest trees that'll be used to build houses.

GALARRWUY YUNUPINGU: And our style of homes that we're going to build out of our local timber will
be our style of home which is more suitable to Aboriginal people and Aboriginal environment.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Bob Gordon is the managing director of Forestry Tasmania.

BOB GORDON: We've been invited up there by the Aboriginal landowners who are interested in
processing their local timber, converting that to products including houses and furniture-grade
material.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The hardwood that'll be cut down is growing on 850 hectares of land where Rio
Tinto has a bauxite mining lease.

Galarrwuy Yunupingu says if the wood wasn't cut down it would've been bulldozed to make way for the
mine.

Under the deal the Gumatj Association will pay Forestry Tasmania to teach Aboriginal workers how to
cut down trees and run sawmills. The money will come from royalties paid to the Gumatj Association
by the bauxite mine and the Federal Government's job creation fund.

GALARRWUY YUNUPINGU: And I think it's long overdue kind of opportunity, giving young men and women
both the skills to cut timber.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The deal has been cautiously welcomed by the coordinator of the Northern
Territory's Environment Centre Stuart Blanch.

STUART BLANCH: From what I've heard it makes sense to harvest the trees and create jobs for
Aboriginal communities from the trees that would be bulldozed anyway for expansion of the mine but
foresters have been eyeing off the tall forests right across northern Australia for years and there
are two proposals now to have mills across parts of the Top End of the Northern Territory.

What the Environment Centre wants to know is what do they mean by selective sustainable logging?

FELICITY OGILVIE: The head of Forestry Tasmania Bob Gordon says the logging in Arnhem Land will
always be a small operation designed to create employment for the local Aboriginal people.

BOB GORDON: The first stage is to cut enough timber to build some houses. We think there's a
potential for further processing that timber, as I said, into furniture-grade material, making
coffee tables, chairs and high-value products. It's a beautiful, hard, quite attractive timber.

FELICITY OGILVIE: He says there are no plans to sell any of the timber from Arnhem Land to the
Tasmanian forest industry.

Forestry Tasmania sells timber to the company Gunns. Gunns plans to build Australia's biggest pulp
mill in Tasmania but Forestry Tasmania says no wood from Arnhem Land will end up in the mill.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie with that report.