Historic land claim

More than 20 years ago, on September 10, 1989, Jawoyn traditional owners won a landmark claim for Nitmiluk Gorge, previously known as Katherine Gorge, and the surrounding area.

Previous to the successful land claim, the gorge was part of the Katherine Gorge National Park run by the Northern Territory Government.

The Jawoyn traditional owners submitted their claim to the land in 1979. The Territory Government fought a long and fierce battle to hold into what it described as the third jewel in its tourism crown, alongside Uluru and Kakadu National Park.

The decade-long fight divided the nearby town of Katherine. The town was described in national commentary as racist, and many Aboriginal people living in the area at the time tell stories of being abused and sidelined by local residents. Some claim they were witness to gun shots fired into nearby Aboriginal camps and communities.

Many of the town's residents protested over the claim, fearing the Jawoyn would stop people visiting the gorge, cutting access to important tourist dollars that bouyed the regions economy.

But this is not what happened. When the land was signed over in 1989, the Jawoyn leased it straight back to the Northern Territory Government and the two groups signed a landmark agreement to jointly manage the park, which was renamed Nitmiluk National Park.

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