The vision for Kakadu National Park is that it is a place where the Aboriginal traditional owners and Parks Australia manage the land together to the highest possible standard, to:
- respect the interests of Aboriginal traditional owners;
- conserve the natural and cultural heritage of the park, which is of regional, national and international significance; and
- encourage visitors to appreciate, enjoy and understand the park.
The following four guiding principles determine how the park should be managed.
Over half of Kakadu is owned by Aboriginal people who have leased their land to the Director of National Parks for it to be managed as a national park. There are also Aboriginal people who identify as the traditional owners of other land in the park that has not been recognised as Aboriginal land within the meaning of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Most of this land is under land claim. Parks Australia consults with relevant Aboriginal people regarding the management of the whole park area, not just those parts of the park that are granted as Aboriginal land*. The Aboriginal people of Kakadu have rights and expect certain things, including the right to hunt and forage. They also have economic and community development aspirations and need to maintain obligations bestowed upon them by Aboriginal tradition. These rights and aspirations will be supported as much as possible.
* In 1978, when announcing its decision following the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the Australian Government made a commitment that 'arrangements will be made for Aboriginals to participate in the planning and management of the whole national park and not only those areas which are to be granted as Aboriginal land' (Australian Parliament 1978). This commitment was based upon the recommendation made in the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry (page 206).
Caring for country
Conserving the special natural and cultural heritage of the park is fundamental to managing the park. Any use of natural resources in the park should be ecologically sustainable, and should not adversely affect biodiversity conservation in Kakadu. Caring for country includes management that conserves the park's World Heritage features and wetlands covered under the Ramsar Convention. Kakadu is a cultural landscape as well as a conservation area. It is a place where people have kept up a lifestyle that has been closely linked to the land for many years and this long, continuing occupation of Kakadu has shaped the landscape as we know it today. Traditional owners maintain a responsibility to care for country and to continue their close association with the land. The Australian Government has joint responsibility with traditional owners to conserve and monitor the integrity of the park's World Heritage attributes and the internationally significant wetlands in the park. Research and monitoring plays an important role in making sure caring for country is carried out as well as possible.
Kakadu is an important place for tourism and recreational use. The traditional owners are proud to share parts of their country with visitors, particularly those who are interested in learning about their culture and the land. They are keen for visitors to appreciate and enjoy the park and to develop a special sense of what Kakadu is and means to traditional owners. They are also keen for visitors to take that special understanding of the park home with them. However, while recognising an obligation to encourage the people to appreciate and enjoy the park, tourism is not to become more important than caring for country and looking after Bininj/Mungguy interests.
Telling people about the park
It is important that visitors to Kakadu can learn about the natural and cultural features of the park. Traditional owners want visitors to the park to learn about the park and their culture and to develop a special understanding of how Kakadu is important to traditional owners. Promoting a program to communicate the park's heritage and the values of the park to visitors and the broader community is an integral part of management.