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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13964

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (18:54): I rise to speak on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2018. This bill sets out a scheme for the claim, grant, control and management of Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. It is extremely important legislation. This is a very historic act. As the member for Lingiari mentioned a little while ago, almost 50 per cent of the Northern Territory is Aboriginal land under this act. It is very important that the history be known, and no-one knows that history better than the member for Lingiari and the people who have been involved in the land rights campaign over decades, so I won't recount that but simply refer you to his speech.

The amendments in the bill we are considering today—and I do note that it's taken some time to get here and it shouldn't have taken this long—do four things. I will just mention those before making some other comments about the bill's importance and what the amendments will mean for people in the Northern Territory. They add parcels of land within Kakadu National Park, the township of Urapunga and Anthony Lagoon station to schedule 1 of the act, enabling them to be granted as Aboriginal land. They make the Kakadu grants conditional upon the Aboriginal landowners leasing the land to the Director of National Parks so that it continues to be part of Kakadu National Park. This will not affect the park's operations, as all areas of Kakadu National Park are already co-managed with traditional owners, and the grants and associated leaseback are anticipated in the park's management plan. They resolve issues connected with the separate corporate identity of the Director of National Parks and the Crown. The director holds land interests in national parks separate from the Crown's interests. They also repeal some redundant references to Kakadu in other parts of the act. It is important to note that the amendments in the bill are supported by both the Northern Territory government and the Northern Land Council.

The bill is a further positive step in resolving longstanding land claims, which has been a bipartisan commitment of Labor and coalition governments. In the second reading speech to the bill, the government committed to finalising land claims in the Northern Territory which have remained unresolved for decades, and we support that commitment. This bill is clearly of significance to the future of Kakadu as a national park and for the traditional owners, the Mirarr people, and the other people who live there.

About 2,000 people lived in the Kakadu area before the arrival of non-Aboriginal people, and I recommend to people listening: if you want to see how people lived before non-Europeans arrived, then, when you go to Kakadu, go up to a place called Burrungkuy, formerly known as Nourlangie Rock. I first went there in about 1986 and I recently took my family there, so it was a bit like completing the circle. My mum and dad took me there all those years ago—a short period really, relative to how long the Mirarr people have been there. To visit this incredible place, where there is a cave where people have, over generations and generations, prepared food, had festivals and performed rituals, is really an experience that every Australian should have. There are about 500 Aboriginal people living in about 18 outstations these days, and they're dotted throughout the park.

It goes without saying that Kakadu has huge cultural significance for the traditional owners. But I also wanted to say in my contribution that it has huge significance for people in my electorate. It has great environmental, economic and tourism importance for Darwin, for Palmerston and for the whole Northern Territory, and for the nation as a whole. I was very pleased to be with the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten; the member for Lingiari; NT senator Malarndirri McCarthy; and others when we were recently in Kakadu, with the Mirarr people, announcing $220 million in infrastructure and community development projects to dramatically improve Kakadu National Park as a tourist destination and to secure the future of the township of Jabiru.

I just want to again stress how important this commitment is not only to Kakadu and Jabiru but also to the Northern Territory and to our nation: $100 million of this commitment will upgrade key access roads; $44 million is for environmental and national park infrastructure upgrades; $25 million is for a new Kakadu visitor and World Heritage interpretive centre in Jabiru; and $2.5 million to improve mobile connectivity in the park so that people can get their Instagram photos out and share those with people around the world, which will in turn drive further interest so that people from all over the world will come to the park.

In fact, if I may, I just would suggest to anyone listening to that who wants to have any idea about how beautiful this place is, if they haven't been, to go to my Instagram, which is @topendgoz. Flick down through about 20 or 30 photos or so, and what I've put in there is a short video that I took at Burrungkuy, formerly Nourlangie Rock, of a small waterfall. Apparently these days 'calm' is something that people get into. You watch a little video of a waterfall, and it makes you calm. I have just put 45 seconds in there. If you can watch that and not be calmed, then I will be very surprised. There's another photo on there that's another cracker, and it's out on Yellow Water. You can see prehistoric crocodiles. You can see the most incredible wildlife and bird life. To go on a cruise of Yellow Water is to see something really, really incredible. I recommend that people get out there and have a look.

I want to just thank everyone who has taken part in the forums that we've held on tourism in the Northern Territory and who pushed so hard for this commitment to the future of Kakadu and Jabiru. Even as recently as yesterday, I was receiving feedback from one of my constituents—actually, he's a constituent of the member for Lingiari. Rob Wesley-Smith was giving me more and more feedback about how Kakadu can be improved. I say to Rob Wesley-Smith: a lot of your concerns will be met by our federal Labor commitment. That is being made not as some gammon, over-10-years commitment but—as the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, said—from our first budget. There's a big difference. It's an important difference. We need this commitment now.

Kakadu and the other locations mentioned in this schedule have been cared for by the Aboriginal custodians for tens of thousands of years. If you want to see spectacular scenery and a pristine environment that has immense cultural value to our nation and to our planet, then do yourself a favour: book a trip and get up there to Kakadu. I just want to, in closing, congratulate everyone who has worked on making these amendments come to fruition. It is a shame that it has taken this long. But, now that it's done, it is a wholly good thing, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make the commitments to Kakadu a reality.