Mirrar In The News

After a priceless gift to the nation Kakadu Traditional Owner just wants a house on his country

19 Nov 2014

"I don't want to wait until I've passed away, I want to live on my country now"

Djok Senior Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee attended the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney in November.

He spoke powerfully at the closing plenary about his work to protect his land at Koongarra. He described his desire to ensure the land is not mined and to share it with all people within Kakadu National Park:

"Koongarra is for everyone to learn from and enjoy"

Many delegates from all over the world approached Jeffrey to congratulate and thank him for his efforts to protect county. After refusing millions of mining dollars and making an incredible gift to the nation, Jeffrey has written to Environment Minister Greg Hunt requesting assistance to build a house on the country he has protected.

Media Statement (download PDF)

Kakadu is Australia’s largest National Park and is dual World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural values. Encompassing tropical wetlands, extensive savannah and soaring sandstone escarpments and waterfalls this region has been sculptured and shaped by people and nature for many tens of thousands of years.

Jeffrey Lee, the Senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan in Kakadu fought for many years to see his country at Koongarra protected from the threat of uranium mining.

In 2011 he made the long journey from Kakadu to Paris to see the World Heritage Committee include Koongarra in the World Heritage estate and in 2013 the area was formally included within Kakadu National Park and permanently protected from uranium mining.

For decades Jeffrey was pressured to allow uranium mining on his land at Koongarra and for decades he resisted - refusing millions of dollars in promised mining payments. Now he is seeking something. After generously allowing his land to be included in Kakadu National Park Jeffrey has a modest ask of the Australian Government in return: please build a house on his country.

Today Jeffrey spoke to thousands of delegates at the closing plenary of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress in Sydney and told the story of his long fight to protect Koongarra. He concluded by calling on the Australian Government to come good on their promise to build him a house on his country.

“I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money comes and goes, but the land is always here, it always stays if we look after it and it will look after us.” said Jeffrey Lee

“While I’m down here at this Congress, I want to tell people about Koongarra and remind the Government that I did all that work to protect that country. All I’m asking is for a place to live on my country. I don’t want to wait until I’ve passed away, I want to live on my county now.

“I don’t want the Government to forget me, they came to visit me, they congratulated me on my hard work and said they will support me in this. The Government knows how hard I worked, they gave me an Order of Australia and I’m happy for that. Now I just want a commitment from them for a house so I can live on that country that I fought for.”