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Memorandum of Understanding between Galarrwuy Yunupingu and the Commonwealth of Australia

Date: 20 September 2007
Sub Category:Memorandum of Understanding
Place:Gunyangara 'Ski Beach', North East Arnhem Land
State/Country:Northern Territory, Australia
Gunyangara is located at Drimmie Head, Wupurr (Melville Bay) on the Gove Peninsula. It is about 10 kilometres from Nhulunbuy (see BushTel).

The Northern Territory Government's BushTel website states that 'Gunyangara community was established in the late 70's and early 80's when Galarrwuy Yunupingu and his family moved there from Yirrkala.' It is on Gumatj country.

Gunyangara is referred to in sch 1, pt 1, cl 15 of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Cth). Under ss 2, 31(2) it is therefore subject to a 5 year lease granted to the Commonwealth beginning on 18 August 2007 (see generally Living Black).
Alternative Names:
  • Gunyangara 'Ski Beach' Memorandum of Understanding
  • Subject Matter: | Cultural Heritage | Economic Development | Land Transaction
    Summary Information:
    The Gunyangara 'Ski Beach' Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Commonwealth of Australia and Galarrwuy Yunupingu on behalf of the Gumatj people on 20 September 2007 (Brough 2007). The MOU is an agreement to work towards a 99 year 'lease' (or, technically, sub-lease: see Dalrymple 2007).
    Detailed Information:
    Content of the MOU

    The MOU requires formal negotiations for the proposed lease to commence within 1 month and there is a view to concluding them within 6 months (Brough 2007). The Northern Land Council is likely to assist in the negotiations (Brough 2007).

    The Proposed Lease

    Under the proposed arrangement, the Gumatj Land Corporation would be established to acquire a 99 year 'head lease' over certain towns and surrounding areas at Drimmie Head, including Gunyangara (see, eg, Dalrymple 2007; Living Black 2007). It is thought this would occur under either s 19 or s 19A of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Nothern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (see, eg, Dalrymple 2007; Living Black 2007). Then a sub-lease of certain areas of Gunyangara would be negotiated between the Government and the Gumatj Land Corporation. This arrangement would therefore involve a surrender of control over part of the Gumatj traditional lands, at Gunyangara.

    The details to be negotiated for the sub-lease include boundaries, provision of government services and the protection of sacred sites (Wilson and Karvelas 2007). It is understood that the sub-lease would be mainly over residential areas and infrastructure facilities (7.30 Report 2007).

    In return for the sub-lease, the Government would upgrade services and help economic development (7.30 Report 2007). Any monetary amounts involved have not been publicly disclosed, however (see,eg, Stateline Northern Territory 2007).

    Context and Commentary

    Some Gumatj leaders, including Djwalpi Marika, have spoken out against the agreement (see Living Black 2007; Karvelas and Wilson 2007).

    Mr Yunupingu said of the MOU negotiations, on the ABC's 7.30 Report, '[t]here had to be negotiation and a serious dialogue, to bring about ... [the] ongoing, service-delivery arrangement that he [Mr Brough] was proposing under the legislation.'

    In his media release, Mr Brough stated that '[a] 99 year lease over Ski Beach will provide the basis for increased economic development, better services and the opportunity for home ownership. These long-term arrangements provide a secure base for the future prosperity of Aboriginal people in remote communities and will allow us to work together to achieve the aims of the Northern Territory Emergency Response' (Brough 2007).

    The MOU was agreed to in the context of Mr Yunupingu lending support to the Government's actions under the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (Cth). Gunyangara is one of the communities listed in the legislation over which the Commonwealth Government acquires a compulsory 5 year lease from the time of commencement of the section - namely, 18 August 2007 (see also Living Black; 7.30 Report 2007).

    A proposal by Diminin traditional owners in Wadeye for what has been described as a similar agreement to the proposed Gunyangara lease was rejected in December 2006 (see Dalrymple 2007; Chandler 2007; see generally Ravens 2006).

    For a comparison between the proposed lease and the Nguiu (Tiwi Islands) Memorandum of Understanding for a 99-Year Lease signed in August 2007, see Prof Jon Altman's comments in Living Black (2007) and Dodson (2007). For example, in his Opinion piece in The Age on 10 October 2007, Patrick Dodson stated that the MOU showed that 'the Government is prepared to negotiate a treaty that leaves the Gumatj holding the head lease and the Crown obtaining the necessary subleases'. He contrasted this with the 99-year leases such as in the Nguiu lease agreement where 'the Government will hold the head lease for 99 years and the Tiwi traditional owners will have to seek sub-leases from the lessor of their traditional lands.'

    Related Entries

  • Nguiu (Tiwi Islands) 99-Year Lease
  • Nguiu (Tiwi Islands) Memorandum of Understanding for a 99-Year Lease
  • Organisation
  • Commonwealth of Australia - Signatory
  • Gumatj Aboriginal Corporation - Signatory
  • Legislation
  • Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth)

  • Glossary

    Memorandum of Understanding

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