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Transcript of remarks at the Kenbi Land Handover: Mandora, NT: 21 June 2016: Land Rights Act; Kenbi Land handover; Northern Land Council; education; mortality rates; the election; the indigenous entrepreneurship program

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21 June 2016

Remarks at the Kenbi Land Handover Mandorah, NT



Thank you very much for your Welcome to Country Jason.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners, all Larrakia people and the Belyuen family group.

I want to acknowledge also the parliamentary colleagues here this morning. Nigel Scullion, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Warren Snowdon who is representing the Opposition Leader, Adam Giles, the Chief Minister and of course Justice Peter Gray, the former Aboriginal Land Commissioner and author of the Land Claim Report in 2000 the justice of is being fulfilled today. Commissioner Reece Kershaw the Commissioner of Police in the Northern Territory and my colleague Natasha Griggs the Member for Solomon.

Today we formally recognise what Larrakia people have always known - that this is Aboriginal land. That this is the lands of the Larrakia people.

I acknowledge that Larrakia people have cared for this country for tens of thousands of years. That your songs have been sung since time out of mind and those songs have held and passed on the knowledge of your customs, your traditions, your lore and I pay my deepest respects to you and your elders past and present.

Today marks a historic day in the settlement of one of the most complex and protracted land claims in the history of the Land Rights Act.

On behalf of the Commonwealth Government and all Australians, I congratulate the Traditional Owners on their persistence, their resilience, their determination over 37 years to see the Kenbi Land Claim resolved.

I recognise that the journey towards this settlement has been a long and difficult one, ever since the land claim over this Cox Peninsula was officially lodged on the 20th of March 1979 - 37 years ago.

There have been three Federal Court and two High Court challenges. There were five Land Commissioners who examined this claim and who twice reported on the way forward.

Finally, Justice Peter Gray found in 2000 that there were six persons recognised as Traditional Owners and I recognise here today the members of the Tommy Lyons group - Raylene, Zoe, Jason and Kathleen, and more broadly the Belyuen people and all Larrakia people.

What followed Justice Grey’s report was a 16-year settlement - the terms of which are finally agreeable to all parties, especially the Traditional Aboriginal owners, the Belyuen group.

Through all of this - over 37 years - you and your families never gave up.

The Kenbi Land Claim was a hard fought land rights battle. But it represents so much more than a battle over land.

It is a story that epitomises the survival and the resilience of our First Australians, the survival and the resilience of the Larrakia people.

For you are the land and the land is you.

This is both a celebration and a commemoration - a day to celebrate what has been achieved but also to remember what has been lost.

Today I pay our respects to your elders - your old people - who fought so hard but passed on before their land could be rightfully returned to them.

I also acknowledge this claim and other claims near Darwin and over Darwin have been contested and have not all been resolved in a way that some would have hoped.

I want to acknowledge the Northern Land Council Chairman, Samuel Bush-Blanasi and Chief Executive Officer, Joe Morrison who have spoken to eloquently this morning and the representatives of the Northern Land Council who have worked with the Belyuen group, the Larrakia people, the Government, and the broader community to help secure the agreement.

Adam Giles, as Chief Minister has shown great leadership through his conviction to see the Kenbi Land Claim through and get a resolution.

Can I thank all parties for their good faith negotiations, which has ultimately resulted in a settlement which will benefit the Belyuan group and future generations of Larrakia people.

It has been 40 years since the Land Rights Act and 50 years since the 1966 Wave Hill Walk-Off triggered movements locally and nationally amongst Aboriginal people for land rights and representation.

It has been even longer since the 1963 bark petition challenged the Government to find a just answer for the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land.

We continue to address challenges that confront us daily of poor outcomes for our First Nations peoples - the persistent gap that we seek so desperately to close in health and social outcomes. We must work together if we are to see our First Nations peoples have equality of opportunity.

Yet, we must not fail to appreciate what is being achieved in the face of adversity.

Already more than 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass has been the subject of a successful land rights or native title claim.

The education gap for 12 year completions is closing.

Child mortality rates are closing and Aboriginal babies born now are living longer.

This can be attributed to the collective work of local, state, and federal governments over the last decade but especially and in particular to Aboriginal people themselves.

The leadership of the community to work in collaboration with each other and with the Government is where we can make our greatest gains.

And in this election, there are at least 12 candidates from across all political parties who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander seeking a position in our Federal Parliament.

From the west coast where Ken Wyatt, the first Aboriginal Member of the House of Representatives is seeking re-election; across to the east coast to the heart of our biggest city, where a young man called Geoffrey Winters is running for the seat of Sydney.

If six or seven of those candidates are successful, we will have parity in our Parliament - that is, our First Australians will be represented in the Parliament as they are in the population.

There is much more to be done - but we should celebrate these achievements as milestones.

Handing back your land must be done with an acknowledgement of the injustices and the trauma of the past, much of which Aboriginal people still live with today.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, this land, Australia, was cared for by hundreds of nations of Aboriginal people. Yours are the oldest continuing cultures on earth.

Our nation is as old as humanity itself and the Larrakia people were and are, the Aboriginal people of the Darwin region.

In policies past, Larrakia people were not treated with the respect they deserved - you were confined to reserves, your movement was restricted, your camps like Lameroo Beach were relocated to compounds and over generations, children were separated from their families.

This trauma and suffering cannot be denied and today we acknowledge these injustices.

But today, with the recognition of you as Traditional Owners and with your land being handed back to you - we look to the future with hope and with optimism.

The successful resolution of the Kenbi Land Claim shows the capacity of our laws to deliver justice for our First Australians.

Although a long and protracted process, it has produced a result that will ensure the Belyuen group and the Larrakia people more broadly have cultural, social and economic opportunities into the future - and that the sharing of benefits can occur in a way that respects the findings of Australian Laws and meets the cultural requirements of the Larrakia people.

In a symbol of hope and of optimism, the Kenbi Land handover will ensure Larrakia people build autonomy and independence, in a partnership based on mutual respect with all other Australians.

It will ensure your hard fought rights are protected and managed according to the Belyuen group and the Larrakia people and that those rights are converted into economic opportunities.

Like Aboriginal people across our nation - you have respected your Country and have sacred and special knowledge of the environment and the ecosystems.

What happens next - is up to you.

The innovative way you have negotiated the Land Claim means the benefits derived from the settlement are shared between the Traditional Owners and the Larrakia people and community.

My Government’s commitment is to do things with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, rather than doing things to them.

You have the opportunity to guide the next stage and we will walk with you on the next part of the journey. By working together, we can ensure your hopes for your future and the future of Belyuen people and of Larrakia people, are realised.

I look forward to this land enabling strong economic growth and empowerment for the Larrakia people. One of the most important objectives - in some ways the most important - must be greater economic empowerment, more entrepreneurship among Aboriginal people.

We are supporting Aboriginal entrepreneurship in many ways. Our Indigenous Procurement Policy overseen by Nigel Scullion is aiming to ensure three per cent of our domestic contracts let by the Commonwealth go to indigenous businesses by 2019-20. And last year alone, in fact in the last 10 months alone more than $150 million of contracts were let to indigenous businesses - 15 times as much as just a few years ago.

We are also delivering a $115 million indigenous entrepreneurship program to build the supply of indigenous enterprises to provide grants to indigenous businesses to get them started and also provide assistance and advice

As I have said many times before, many, many times before, we are the most successful multicultural society in the world and what binds us together is mutual respect and that each of us is entitled to the

same respect, the same dignity and the same opportunities - will see Australia as a reconciled nation with its First Peoples.

Thank you very much.