The Guardian October 11, 2000


Call to put Kakadu on endangered list

The deteriorating legislative, cultural and social situation in the 
Kakadu World Heritage Area has led ATSIC to recommend that UNESCO place it 
on the "in danger" list as a matter of urgency.

"ATSIC remains concerned over the danger posed to the Kakadu World Heritage 
Area, owned by the Mirrar Aboriginal people, from the Jabiluka mining 
development", said ATSIC Chairman Geoff Clark in a statement issued last 
Sunday.

ATSIC has lodged a submission to UNESCO's World Heritage Commission (WHC) 
in Paris seeking urgent consideration of the matter at its meeting in 
Cairns in December 2000.

It has asked the WHC to send its International Scientific Panel and 
Cultural Advisory Committee to undertake an immediate and comprehensive 
investigation of the impact of Jabiluka mining.

ATSIC's submission points to recent action by the United States Government 
in responding to similar threats to the Yellowstone and Everglades National 
Parks.

In those cases, placement on the List of the World Heritage in 
Danger saw a flow of remedial measures and resources including federal 
funding for rehabilitation and pollution control and land trades.

"ATSIC has proposed that land under the Jabiru township should be handed 
back to traditional owners as recommended by the Kakadu Region Social 
Impact Study", said Mr Clark.

"The whole of Kakadu should become Aboriginal land by scheduling under the 
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act of 1976."

ATSIC has also strongly urged the WHC to commission a full and thorough 
review of Australia's domestic legislation and administration relevant to 
World Heritage sites.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a vital interest in 10 
out of the 13 World Heritage properties in Australia yet our Indigenous 
rights to land and heritage protection face constant reduction.

"The nation of Australia was founded in 1901 based on the false legal 
principle of terra nullius. Australia lacked both a Bill of Rights 
entrenched in its Constitution and a negotiated treaty with the Indigenous 
peoples. Most of the problems emerging in Kakadu could have been averted 
had there been a properly negotiated, binding treaty in place", said Mr 
Clark.

ATSIC has pledged full support for the Mirrar peoples in their struggle to 
care for and protect their traditional country in Kakadu.

The ATSIC submission to UNESCO is available under "issues" at 
http://www.atsic.gov.au

Information on World Heritage sites is available at
http://www.unesco.org/whc/sites

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