The introduction to the House of Representatives legislation to reincorporate the Koongarra mineral lease into Kakadu National Park has been welcomed by many.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam paid tribute to the efforts of Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee, who was in the public gallery when the Bill was introduced.
“Djok Elder Jeffrey Lee fought for many years to protect his country against powerful uranium interests. Koongarra was finally recognised in June 2011 by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for having both cultural and environmental significance. Mr Lee has acknowledged the support from the Mirarr people; especially their senior traditional owner, Ms Yvonne Margarula.”
“The 1,228 hectare area of Koongarra should have been in Kakadu long ago, but will finally have the protection it deserves upon passage of this Bill. This is a win for the long term future of the region and a big step forward for the integrity of the Kakadu World Heritage area.”
In an ironic twist, the Government has titled the legislation the Completion of Kakadu National Park Bill.
“Kakadu will not be ‘complete’ until the Ranger and Jabiluka mineral leases have been reincorporated into the Park and custodianship restored to the Traditional Owners of the area. Critical to this will be the massive task of clean-up and rehabilitation at Ranger.
“For today though, we can all celebrate this outcome, which is supported by all parties in the Parliament”.
Koongarra lies in the shadow of Nourlangie Rock, one of Kakadu’s most popular visitor destinations, with rock art galleries that bear witness to the close relationship Aboriginal people have with their land and spiritual heritage.
On its other side, Koongarra faces Lightning Dreaming, home of Namarrgon or Lightning Man, the creation ancestor responsible for the dramatic electrical storms on the Arnhem plateau.
Federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke emphasized the significance of the legislation.
“Koongarra will have the full protection of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 and as part of Kakadu, mining will be prohibited forever.”
“This historic moment is testament to the untiring work of traditional owner Jeffrey Lee, who has fought for years to preserve his country for future generations. We are proud to honour the wishes of the land’s traditional owners and to protect one of Australia’s most magnificent national parks for our children and grandchildren.”
For more information about Kakadu National Park visit their website.