Darwins Kulaluk Lease

Darwins Kulaluk Lease

15th July 2016

The Kulaluk Lease Area symbolizes the first land grant made to the Larrakia people in acknowledgement of their longstanding traditional ownership and occupation of land and seas in the Darwin region. (Environmental Defenders Office, 2016). In the heart of Darwin, a 300-hectare tract of city-adjacent coastal land known as the Kulaluk Lease Area is a highly controversial. Richie (2015:3) notes that “The history of Kulaluk is located within a recurring tradition of claims and assertions”. First mention of the site appears to have been on 20th May, 1971 on the front page of the Northern Territory News. Most recently the site has been the center of conflict between several groups who each propose a different future for the site. The core of the argument though is whether the site should be Heritage listed, or rezoned for development.



Area typically refers to the local government area unless otherwise specified.

The Kulaluk Lease Area – An area of land that spans from Coconut Grove to Ludmilla Creek and extends both sides of Dick Ward Drive to include the majority of the “green corridor” (See Figure 1 – A Map showing the Lease Areas).

Traditional ownership – A descendant of the people or group who were known occupants of a designated area prior to European settlement.

Special purpose lease in perpetuity – A lease granted by the Minister of the Territory, of an area of previously unleased crown land for activities deemed “Special Purposes” under the Northern Territory Consolidated Acts, for an undefined period of time

Freehold – refers to the permanent tenure of an area of land with unobstructed freedom to develop or dispose of it as required by the lease holding body

Heritage Status – Heritage significance is a term that is used to indicate that a definable area or place, building, work, relic, or moveable object, holds historical, scientific, cultural, social, archaeological, architectural, natural or aesthetic significance to an area, local or state (Northern Territory of Australia: Heritage Act 2011:2-9).


Discussion and Arguments

It would be difficult in a case that has its origins in the early 1970s to list all the stakeholders since some may have changed, a brief outline of a number of these parties can be found in Table 2. However in the current issue there are two main camps, these being the Gwalwa Daraniki Association, holders of the special purpose lease in perpetuity over Kulaluk (Davidson, 2016), and administrators of Larrakia Land, who have petitioned for rezoning for development rights of the area, and the Larrakia and Danggalabe Kulumbirigin people who form a strong opposition to development arguments, and petitioned for the area to be granted Heritage status (Particularly the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation). Further objections from the Larrakia nation question the notion that, if the Gwalwa Daraniki Association, operating as they claim for the future benefit of all peoples of the area, why have so many ben excluded from the matter? (Bardon, 2015) “Tibby” Quall is quoted in Media Source 1 – Bardon (2015) as saying “The whole land is our land too, [belonging] to all our families, and anything that takes place on the land we should be involved or consulted too about it”


Table 1: The Major Issues 

Issue likely to be raise The argument The counter argument Personal position Article reference
Sacred and burial sites There are burial sites and ceremonial grounds on the site. Also the grave sites of Tiwi People Aboriginal people would be unlikely to build or develop in any way an area that they considered sacred I agree with the counter argument but also believe that both sides should be provided equal opportunity to prove their case 1


commercial and industrial use Northern Territory Planning Minister Dave Tollner claims this allows the Gwalwa Daraniki Association to secure its economic future Heritage listing would not have prevented development of this block, but it would have meant that development had to consider all heritage values of this site Regardless of the outcome any form of development should be required to take into account all influencing factors prior to decisions being formed. 2
Residential use


Additional funding would go toward maintaining and building houses in the existing aboriginal camps The organization is already mismanaging and providing inadequate housing and facilities. What will change by giving them more control? Under proper management additional funding should not be required to support existing buildings, only for further development 2



Welfare dependency The Country Liberals government believes Territorians should take responsibility for their own futures, to break the cycle of welfare dependency and provide more income and jobs for the community of Kulaluk and Minmarama Programs that use the land in its present form already exist. Destroying the biodiversity could potentially endanger projects such as crab farming This is a difficult topic and should not be judged simply from reading. To be fair one would need to spend time with the community and to hear what they feel and really want to see happen 2
Exclusivity of land control The perpetual lease was granted to the Gwalwa Daraniki Association who feel that it is in the best future interest of the community to develop a portion of the land The Larrakia and Danggalabe Kulumbirigin people argue that in the interests of the community, the community should be consulted. They strongly oppose the idea of rezoning and development The difference is a legal vs ethical problem. Legally the Gwalwa Daraniki Association, as lease holders of the land have the right to apply for rezoning and changes to that lease as they see fit. Ethically however their actions affect all those associated with the land and should consult with them before taking such action. 1
Cultural Heritage Would have been the first Aboriginal Site to receive Heritage Listing in Darwin.

There is also natural Heritage and threatens vegetation and biodiversity.

“A heritage listing would prevent future development and would not protect any historical association with the Aboriginal land rights movement” I lean toward the opinion that if the area formed a strong enough case to be considered “sacred land” during the initial agreement then the case should still hold. 2




Table 2: Brief profile of the parties

Group Profile
Australian Federal Government


Northern Territory Government


Northern Territory Heritage Council


Part of the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment, the Heritage Council operates under the Heritage Act (2012). Their functions are set out in section 125 of this act and include the assessment of “the heritage significance of places and objects” and to “recommend to the minister the declaration [or revocation] of places and objects to be heritage places and objects”
Indigenous residents


These are the various Aboriginal people who directly reside in the local area. They may or may not be traditional owners or affiliates of either of the two major Indigenous groups in disagreement. They do however share a vested interest in the outcome of the situation.
Gwalwa Daraniki Association (rezoning for development)


The Gwalwa Daraniki Association are the administrators of Larrakia land which included the twin town camps of Kulaluk and Minmarama Park. They also see to the provision of residential and various land care projects in the area which include the agreements under the “ Kulaluk and Minmarama Park ‘Developing a Mud-Crab Business’ Shared Responsibility Agreement”
Larrakia and Danggalaba Kulumbirigin people (opposition)


The Larrakia are acknowledged as the traditional owners of the Darwin region

The Danggalaba Kulumbirigin are one of the “clans” in the Darwin region and claim attachment to and ownership of the land through their descendants (NNTT, DC96/3). Notably Kevin Lance “Tibby” Quall is a prominent member of this group.

Traditional Owners


Collectively the Larrakia people
Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation


Possibly the largest networks of Aboriginal people in the Darwin Area. They work in a variety of roles and capacities which range from  help booking a bus, to arranging care for elders and taking legal action in support of communities
Elders from around the territory


Traditional beliefs and customs involving the land often resulted in Elders from not just the local area meeting but also those from neighboring areas, and other areas with whom close relationships are held, prior to any formal agreement on changes or development of the land being made.
Gurindji Elders


The Gurindji people are the people recognized as traditional owners of the Kalkaringi (Wave Hill native title determination, 2014) and Daguragu areas of the Northern Territory – about 9 hours by road from Darwin

The Gurindji (Aboriginal Corperation) administers land on behalf of the Jiyilijurrung and Yilyilmawu Gurindji People

Tiwi Islanders (Pukumani people)


The Tiwi Islands are a group of islands located approximately 80 kilometers to the north of Darwin on the border of the Arafura and Timor Seas. Although not from the immediate area, a number of grave markers identified as belonging to the Tiwi Islanders have been identified in the Kulaluk Area.
Lands Planning and Mining Tribunal


The lands, Planning and Mining Tribunal was established by Act on 1 October 2012 (since repealed by the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal). The conferral of jurisdiction for Native Title matters, under Act No. 36, 2014 came into force on 1 January 2015. The tribunal was tasked with hearing and deciding applications to review decisions, and the application for confirmation of stop work orders under the Heritage Act (Provisions under the Act, Part 5)
Environmental Defenders Office


Lawyers for the Larriaka Nation


Media item(s)

  1. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-21/larrakia-people-divided-over-indigenous-land-plan/6793212
  2. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-29/planning-minister-knocks-back-kulaluk-heritage-application/7372108
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/may/02/indigenous-heritage-and-development-the-fight-over-darwins-kulaluk-lease
  4. http://www.publicnow.com/view/1C89383088291213D80FD62F9F8FBBA97087159A?2016-05-05-07:00:44+01:00-xxx5152



Figure 1 – A Map showing the Lease Areas

Further work

A wide range of supporting and additional documentation can be found through the personal site of Dr. Bill Day, a consulting anthropologist at the following url.

< http://www.drbilldayanthropologist.com/kulaluk-heritage-nomination.php>

Additional the final report presented by Richie (2015) deserves more careful examination.

What appeared to be a small, relatively contemporary case when initial research began to evolve into a collection of cases all interrelated that have spanned the last 45 years or more. The printed documentation sound to this point provided the earliest date as 1971 though it is most probable that the beginnings of this case started well before this time.



Bardon, J., 2015. Larrakia People divided over development plan for Indigenous land in Darwin. ABC News. Accessed online 1 July 2016 from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-21/larrakia-people-divided-over-indigenous-land-plan/6793212

Breen, J., 2016. Northern Territory Planning Minister declines Darwin’s Aboriginal land as heritage site. ABC News. Accessed online 1 July 2016 from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-29/planning-minister-knocks-back-kulaluk-heritage-application/7372108

Country Liberal Party (CLP), 2016. Gwalwa Daraniki Association Secures Economic Future at Kulaluk 29 Apr 2016. Public Press Release. Accessed online 2 July 2016 from http://www.publicnow.com/view/1C89383088291213D80FD62F9F8FBBA97087159A?2016-05-05-07:00:44+01:00-xxx5152

Davidson, H., 2016. Indigenous heritage and development: the fight over Darwin’s Kulaluk lease. The Guardian, 2 May 2016. Accessed online 1 July 2016 from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/may/02/indigenous-heritage-and-development-the-fight-over-darwins-kulaluk-lease

Day, W.B., nd. Dr Bill Day Anthropologist. Personal Website. http://www.drbilldayanthropologist.com/kulaluk-heritage-nomination.php

Environmental Defenders Office (NT). 2016. Kulaluk Lease Area – Proposed Heritage Declaration (21 March). Accessed online 2 July 2016 from http://edont.org.au/kulaluk-lease-area-proposed-heritage-declaration/

National Native Title Tribunal, 2000. Kevin Lance (“Tibby”) Quall and Ors vs Northern Territory. NNTT DC96/3, Federal Court Number DG6012/98.

Northern Territory Heritage Act 2011 [online]


Ritchie, D., 2015. Review of the Assessment Process Carried out in Relation to the Kulaluk Leas Area: Prepared for the Northern Territory Heritage Council (31 May 2015). Capricornia Consulting.