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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says Australia is making good progress in work to improve the social and economic development of Aboriginal communities in Kakadu.
Senator Hill says the Government's response to the Kakadu Region Social Impact Study (KRSIS) is already delivering benefits to local Aboriginal communities.
The Federal Government has reported on progress implementing its KRSIS response as part of a report to the World Heritage Committee in Paris.
This report confirms the Government is well-advanced in meeting the commitments it made to the Committee when it decided last year that there was no case to list Kakadu as being "in danger".
It also confirms that the Jabiluka mine site does not pose any threat to the world heritage values of the nearby national park.
Senator Hill says the report shows that most traditional owners in Kakadu are working constructively with the Commonwealth and NT Governments and mining company ERA to deliver better outcomes for indigenous communities.
"We are working with indigenous groups to deliver improved housing and infrastructure, the provision of better health services, and a broad range of employment and training opportunities.
"Planning and construction has begun on a $3.2 million upgrade of key tourism infrastructure in the Park.
"New housing construction and major upgrades worth $1.2 million are under way in a number of Kakadu outstations and $3 million worth of construction is due to begin on improvements to basic infrastructure such as power, sewerage and water reticulation.
"We are also providing better employment opportunities through both Community Development Employment Projects and Parks Australia. A groundbreaking hospitality training course for indigenous people already has 22 young Aboriginal people involved and there will be more to follow.
"Talks are also continuing with the NT Government on funding for a new Aboriginal Education Unit at the Jabiru Area School to provide increased levels of education to young Aboriginal people in an environment that respects their cultural background."
Senator Hill says the Government has also made every effort to progress the development of a Cultural Heritage Management Plan for Jabiluka.
"We have made every effort to involve the traditional owners of the site, the Mirrar, in this process including an invitation for them to be a part of a Reference Group to provide assistance to ERA and the nomination of a senior indigenous leader to act as a facilitator in the process.
"To date, the Mirrar have declined to participate in the Reference Group or accept the indigenous facilitator, preferring to proceed with their own as yet undefined process. They have given no time frame for the completion of this process."
Senator Hill says the independent Supervising Scientist has confirmed that there is no threat to the world heritage values of Kakadu despite recent claims by some green groups.
Senator Hill says work at Jabiluka will progress in accordance with stringent environmental conditions imposed by the Australian and Northern Territory governments. All operations will be consistent with commitments given by Australia to the World Heritage Committee in July 1999.
The report will be presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in Paris for their consideration in June this year.
The report is available at www.environment.gov.au
April 19, 2000
Media contact: Rod Bruem (02) 6277 7640