CANBERRA: The Australian Conservation Foundation has warmly welcomed the introduction of federal legislation to permanently protect Koongarra, a distinct and special part of the Kakadu region, from the threat of uranium mining.
The legislation introduced today is to repeal the Koongarra Project Area Act – an Act created to allow uranium mining after Koongarra was excluded from Kakadu’s original boundaries in 1979. This makes it possible for Koongarra to be included in Kakadu.
“Today’s development is good news for Kakadu and a tribute to the tenacity and vision of Jeffrey Lee, the senior Djok Traditional Owner of Koongarra,” said ACF nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney in Canberra today.
“For years Jeffrey has wanted an end to the push for uranium mining on his country.
“He has taken his message from the corridors of Canberra to UNESCO headquarters in Paris and consistently called for the protection of his country.
“This legislation is a welcome acknowledgement of Jeffrey Lee’s efforts.”
Uranium mining has long been a source of conflict in Kakadu with Traditional Owners leading campaigns against mining proposals at Koongarra and Jabiluka.
“Uranium mining in Kakadu continues to generate headlines and heartache with mining company Energy Resources of Australia seeking federal approval to develop a controversial underground uranium mine at its existing Ranger site.”
Before the 2010 election the Federal Government promised to permanently protect Koongarra inside Kakadu National Park.
Contact: Dave Sweeney 0408 317 812, or media adviser Josh Meadows 0439 342 992
A written statement by Jeffrey Lee is below
Nuclear Free Campaigner
Australian Conservation Foundation
Floor 1, 60 Leicester St, CARLTON VIC 3053, Australia
Ph +61 3 9345 1130 Mob +61 408 317 812 Fax +61 3 9345 1166
Statement by Djok Senior Traditional Owner, Jeffrey Lee AM, 6 February 2013
This is a great day for me, my country and my culture. My mind is at peace now that I know that there will be no mining at Koongarra and that Djok lands will be protected forever in Kakadu National Park.
My mothers and grandmothers who taught me about the plants and animals, my uncles and aunties who shared their knowledge, to all the elders and my creation ancestors – I give my humble respect for standing here today.
I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money comes and goes, but the land is always here, it always stays if we look after it and it will look after us.
So many people have helped me along the way. Firstly, I want to thank the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, for his determination to see this finally done. I also want to thank the Mirarr people and especially the senior traditional owner, Yvonne Margarula, and the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation. They have stood by me and showed me that Aboriginal people can say no. I hope that one day Kakadu National Park will be truly complete with the Mirarr lands at Ranger and Jabiluka included in the national park.
There are too many people to thank. Special thanks to my family Stephen, Jacqui & Mai Katona; Dave Lindner, Ian Conroy, Tony Heenan & my Kakadu friends; Gareth Lewis, Richard Ledgar, Rian Rombouts; Dave Sweeney and Justin O’Brien, Clare and Darcy Henderson, Peter Garrett, Trish Crossin, Peter Wellings, Chris Haynes, Peter Cochrane, Clare Martin, the Northern Land Council, The Greens, The Australian Democrats, the NT Environment Centre and Larry and Gabrielle O’Loughlin. I also thank those people in the early days from the 1970s who also offered their support.
I thank the journalists and film makers who took the time to listen to my story and then told it so that others could hear. To all the Aboriginal people from Australia and Indigenous peoples from overseas that have supported me and to all those that go on to fight for your own rights – I thank you. All the people that have written to me from cross Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Italy and other parts of the world – thank you.
To all the people who I have not met and who I know are out there helping others to stand up and say no, I thank you because you have always been there. I sincerely thank the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for respecting the values of my country and culture and to the Australian and Northern Territory governments for supporting the inclusion of the Koongarra area into Kakadu National Park.
This has been a very long and difficult struggle for me. I have gone through a lot of trouble and heartache and waited a long time to see this day. However, the fact that I am here today proves that if you are true to your culture and to your land one day you will win.