Australian Prime Minister Julia Gilard was happy with the new mining lease agreement that was signed between Rio Tinto and the Indigenous people this week. The bauxite mine and alumina refinery have been in operation since 1960 but only now have the Aboriginal people been given their due for the use of their traditional lands.
Ms Gilard spoke to the hundreds of Yolgnu people who had come to attend the signing ceremony in Gove Peninsula. She said that the mining lease agreement being signed showed what respect and responsibility could do, and renewed her call for Indigenous people to be recognized in the constitution.
She added that when the first Australians take their place in the first document of all Australians, it will be an uplifting, uniting moment for our nation, a day of great national pride, a day of shared respect. She hopes that as they shared this day of celebration, they all looked towards that day.
The Northern Land Council saw all its leaders present at the ceremony as well. However other local groups have been voicing their displeasure at being blocked out of the negotiations that were held prior to signing the agreement.
The residents of Arnhem Land had addressed their concerns to Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin. About 50 people had written to the minister claiming that they had been unrecognized in the negotiations as traditional owners due to poor anthropological work.
Arnhem Land elder Djiniyinni Gondarra of the Drurili Nation clan says his people are traditional owners too and they were not consulted. He added that this would lead to some clan groups missing out on the royalties generated by the agreement. However the Northern Land Council said that they had consulted the right people about the negotiations. The minister has stood by the Northern Land Council on this point.