Reggie Wurridjal, a traditional owner of the Maningrida land in Arnhem Land, claims the Government’s compulsory acquisition of land and other property as part of the emergency intervention in the Northern Territory is not “on just terms” and therefore constitutionally invalid. And just like Darryl Kerrigan, he’s taking his claim all the way to the High Court. The case is back in court today with Mr Wurridjal, in conjunction with the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation which runs roughly 20 businesses in the area, seeking an interim injunction to deny the government access to assets and land until the case reaches the High Court. Mr Wurridjal and the Corporation are asking the High Court to overturn the Federal Government’s five-year land lease and reinstate the permit system that governs entry to Aboriginal communities.  Mr Wurridjal and the corporation say they are not being adequately compensated for the suspension of their rights to use the land, including sacred sites, and property for the term of the lease. Included in the five-year lease to the Commonwealth as part of the intervention are the following terms:

Directions under s 68 of the Emergency Response Act

20. The minister may give Bawinanga a direction in writing requiring it to:

(a) use or manage Bawinanga’s tangible assets in a particular way; or

(b) transfer its possession or ownership of any of Bawinanga’s tangible assets to another community services entity, the Commonwealth or a specified person (the s 68 Direction) (s 68 of the Emergency Response Act).

Acquisition of Property

21. By reason of ss 31 (1), 32 (2) (a) (ii), 31 (2) (b), 34, 35, 36, 37, 50 and 51 of the Emergency Response Act and items 12 and 15 to Sch 4 of the FaCSIA Act the Commonwealth has acquired Land Trust property, Reggie’s property and Bawinanga’s Maningrida land interests, within the meaning of s 51 (xxxi) of the Constitution.

The writ filed by law firm Holding Redlich, read here, lists both Bawinanga’s intangible and tangible assets.

To follow is a list of Bawinanga assets, including percentage of government funding, and monetary worth:

This selection of assets — which go towards assisting the Bawinanga corporation in providing financial and related services, housing, road works, construction, the “tucker run”, bush deliveries, human services, arts and culture, the Good Food Kitchen which prepares healthy meals, the Babbarra Women’s Centre, various CDEP businesses, the nursery, the Djelk Rangers, the crab harvesting program and tourism — adds up to almost $14 million.

As for how you put a monetary price on compensating for the acquisition of sacred sites, well that very much comes down to the vibe.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off