On March 31, 1978, a group of Jawoyn people lodged a claim over their traditional lands in the Katherine region, marking the first step to land rights and recognition.
It was the beginning of an 11-year battle to win back country.
40 years later, the Jawoyn Association recognises the elders and all those who have worked with them since the claim was first lodged.
The Jawoyn Association’s chair of the board, Lisa Mumbin, said the lodgement was an important moment for Jawoyn because it marks the time Jawoyn people officially called to be recognised as traditional owners.
“Our elders paved the way for future generations by joining together and lodging one of the early claims under the Northern Territory land rights act,” Ms Mumbin said.
“They wanted government to recognise the connection Jawoyn have to their country.
“It lead community elders to establish the Jawoyn Association to represent Jawoyn people’s interests.”
The drawn-out battle created tension in the Katherine region with rumours Jawoyn would prevent access to the famous Katherine Gorge.
“We were never going to stop people from visiting the place we call Nitmiluk,” Ms Mumbin said.
“We knew tourism was important for everyone in the region.
“It wasn’t an easy time but our community stayed strong.”
When the land claim was recognised in 1989, Jawoyn signed an agreement with the Northern Territory Government to jointly manage the gorge and surrounding area. This area was then renamed Nitmiluk National Park.
It also established tourism ventures in the park and today runs the successful Nitmiluk Tours under the motto ‘sharing our country’.
The land claim lodgement anniversary community celebrations involve a bunggul, band and a BBQ to be held at Nitmiluk National Park’s Youth Park this Saturday.
When: Saturday March 31, 11am-4pm
Where: Youth Park, Nitmiluk National Park.
All community and media welcome.
Media Contact: Isabella Baldwin - 0437 930 028