Kakadu Charter marks 15 years of shared values

Fifteen years ago this week two very different Australians representing the aspirations of very different communities signed a document outlining a shared vision for a better future. One was Yvonne Margarula leading the Mirarr people, the traditional owners of large parts of Kakadu. The other was Peter Garrett, famous at the time for fronting Midnight Oil and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Their names concluded the Kakadu Charter - a short document with a modest style that disguises its continuing significance.

What started as opposition to plans for uranium mining at Jabiluka has grown into a powerful platform for a different and better way of doing business in Kakadu. ERA is now majority owned by Rio Tinto who have publicly vowed not to mine Jabiluka without the consent of the Mirarr. This significant improvement in circumstances was bolstered by the end of threatened uranium mining elsewhere in Kakadu when the former Koongarra Project Area was incorporated into the surrounding Kakadu National Park and permanently protected from mining.

The challenge now facing ERA, Rio Tinto and the Northern Territory and Australian governments together with the Mirarr is one of comprehensive rehabilitation and facilitating the transition to a post mining regional economy – a vision clearly expressed in the Kakadu Charter.

The 15th anniversary of the Kakadu Charter is a good time for Aboriginal and environmental advocates to re-confirm our shared concern, action and effectiveness for the long awaited total rehabilitation and completion of Kakadu National Park.

In mid-October, after the Mirarr formally confirmed their support for the position taken publicly by Rio Tinto, ERA advised the Australian Stock Exchange that it respects "the views of the Traditional Owners and will undertake a review of its business in the light of their decision".