Thirty years ago today, Jawoyn leader Raymond Fordimail stood proudly before a large crowd at Nitmiluk with a signed piece of paper in his hand, signalling the end of an 11 year land claim battle.
He acknowledged that it was just that, a piece of paper with a signature from the government, and it meant nothing unless there was a future.
"It is the hope of the Jawoyn people this will be the new way of doing things," he said.
"We will show the people in Katherine... and all of Australia that land rights can work for all of us."
Today, more than 100 people gathered at Nitmiluk National Park to mark 30 years since Nitmiluk was handed back to Jawoyn traditional owners.
It also marks the day when Jawoyn people forged a historic agreement with the Northern Territory government to jointly manage the park under a new lease arrangement.
"For Jawoyn, land rights have always been about respecting land," Jawoyn Association chair Lisa Mumbin said in a speech today.
"Our elders always had a vision for a brighter future for our children... A lot of our people can see hope because our elders stood strong and fought for what they believe.
"They stood on this ground and lay the foundation for our people."
Over 30 years the Jawoyn Association has built Nitmiluk into a thriving national park, and the the NT's third most visited natural attraction - 263,500 people visited last year.
"Our leaders created a future where we have control over our land," Ms Mumbin said.
"It gave all of us here a pathway to reconciliation, we were able to overcome fear and worry and it shows black and white can work together."
Katherine-born Yawuru man and former Australian of the Year Mick Dodson remembered the handback fondly, today, after an especially courageous struggle from many in the town.
He was appointed the NT's first-ever Treaty Commissioner earlier this year, but at the time of the handback he was working at the Northern Land Council, and writing a column in the Katherine Times titled Original View.
"I am proud of what has been achieved by not just the Jawoyn and the park's rangers. All that we have today is a tribute to their hardwork and perseverance," he said.
He said he was sad the elders who had fought for their rightful land were missing out on today's celebrations.
"They built strong foundations for the future, but none are left to see it."
And while he looks at the progress in a positive light, "there is still a long way to go," he said.
"We have to be optimistic about the future, understand each other and embrace sharing.
"Trust, respect and understanding are the ways forward."
Lisa Mumbin and former Jawoyn Association executive director Jak Ah Kit joined a crowd to unveil a plaque acknowledging the 30th anniversary.
The 30th anniversary is also part of the Nitmiluk Festival, which runs from the September 6-15.
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