Our Campaign 

For many years, Rirratjingu land has been leased to Rio Tinto for the purpose of mining and refining bauxite. In August 2014, the Rirratjingu commenced proceedings against the Northern Land Council claiming it was not paying the Rirratjingu their fair share of Rio Tinto royalties.

The issue at hand is not the amounts or apportionment of the royalties. The issue is one of self-determination, equity and fairness. But more immediately, this saw huge tracks of Rirratjingu areas change hands, and a total loss of control of traditional lands.

So the Rirratjingu asked the Federal Court to decide which land was theirs and what their fair share of the payments should be.

On 24 August 2016, the Federal Court ruled in Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation v Northern Land Council [2015] FCA 36 that the traditional owners have no right to their land, and that these are instead deferred to the Northern Land Council. This means that the Rirratjingu are the corporate equivalent of a ward of the state. 

The impact of the Federal Court decision is that there is a two tier system in Australia, where traditional owners do not have the same rights to their land as ordinary Australians do in theirs. Ordinary Australians can seek appeal to the courts. Traditional owners must appeal to Federal bureaucracies. 

Forty years ago, in December 1976 under Malcom Fraser that the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act passed with bipartisan support giving traditional owners in the Northern Territory rights to their ancestral lands. 

Now, forty years later, the children of the traditional owners who began land rights in Australia are fighting again.

Picture: Warriors and Leaders of the Land Rights movement, the five Rirratjingu brothers Mawalan Marika, Mathaman Marika, Milirrpum Marika, Dhunggala Marika and Dadaynga 'Roy' Marika led the 13 Clans of Yirrkala to create the Yirrkala Bark Petitions, which eventuated in the great land rights case Milirrpum v NABALCO 1971.

Picture: Warriors and Leaders of the Land Rights movement, the five Rirratjingu brothers Mawalan Marika, Mathaman Marika, Milirrpum Marika, Dhunggala Marika and Dadaynga 'Roy' Marika led the 13 Clans of Yirrkala to create the Yirrkala Bark Petitions, which eventuated in the great land rights case Milirrpum v NABALCO 1971.