Emotions flow at signing

Article by Tablelands Reporter Steve Gray, published in The Cairns Post, 3 March 2003.  
  Ngadjon-Jii elders on Friday, the 28th February 2003, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Environmental Protection Agency and the
Ngadjonji and Murramba dancers perform the smoking ceremony, welcoming participants and guests to the Malanda Showgrounds for the historic signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by the Ngadjonji people and representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Wet Tropics Management Authority.
Wet Tropics Management Authority which will, among other initiatives, give them control over access to a culturally significant area, about the size of a football field, known to them as Buluba Burrgana and more recently Top Camp. Families hugged and tears flowed as the signing ceremony took place, both for the occasion and in memory of elders who had died before the agreement could be completed.

Top Camp, in Wooroonooran National Park, has been significant to local Aborigines since time immemorial and has been a birth place, a home and a burial area for the Ngandjon-Jii.

About 200 people attended the ceremony which was opened with a prayer for all to have "open ears and listening hearts" for each other's needs. Master of Ceremonies Yvonne Canendo called for a Minute's Silence "for the elders we have lost since we took up this native title process".

Ngadjonji elders from left to right Mr Henry Robinson, Miss Jesse Callico, Mrs Grace Kidner and Mrs May Morta assisted by Ngadjonji Arnold Murray and Nadja Mack from the North Queensland Land Council, sign the land agreement which gives them access once more to the heart of their homeland.
The Ngadjon-Jii and Murramba dancers held a "smoking" or fire-making ceremony and traditional dances in the Malanda Showgrounds Hall, decorated for the occasion in the yellow, red and black of the aboriginal flag. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service regional director Clive Cook said the signing moved forward the cause of reconciliation. Mr Cook and others pointed out the Memorandum of Understanding was not a Land Rights agreement (these are adjudicated by the Federal Court). Russell Watkinson, executive director of the Wet Tropics Management Agency said the agreement required that the agency work closely with aboriginal people to ensure the area's cultural values were kept "for our children's children".

Ngadjon-Jii spokesman Thomas Gertz said his people were proud and pleased with the outcome. "The restricted access declaration will once again see our old people involved in the management of a very significant site within our traditional lands," he said.

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