The park is proclaimed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is managed through a joint management arrangement between the Aboriginal traditional owners and the Director of National Parks. The Director manages Commonwealth national parks through Parks Australia, which is a part of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Approximately 50 per cent of the land in the park is Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, and most of the remaining area of land is under claim by Aboriginal people. Title to Aboriginal land in the park is held by Aboriginal land trusts. The land trusts have leased their land to the Director of National Parks for the purpose of a national park for the enjoyment and benefit of all Australians. Traditional owners have also expected that having their land managed as a national park would assist them in looking after their land in the face of growing and competing pressures. They saw a national park as establishing a way to manage the land that could protect their interests and be sympathetic to their aspirations. Parks Australia and the Aboriginal traditional owners of Kakadu are committed to the principle of joint management of the park and arrangements to help this happen are highlighted throughout the Kakadu National Park Management Plan (2007-2014).
Parks Australia, the traditional owners and other Aboriginal people work continuously to refine and develop the process of joint management. The aim is to ensure that the joint management of the park is as effective as possible. Joint management is about deciding things, solving problems and sharing responsibility for decisions. It is about the joint management partners feeling comfortable in the relationship and that they benefit from it. Traditional owners of Kakadu have repeatedly stated their commitment to working with Parks Australia in jointly managing the park. Parks Australia is also committed to continue working in a joint management arrangement with the traditional owners.
Kakadu's Indigenous rangers - Closing the Gap
Samantha Deegan | Indigenous Ranger Program
Samantha Deegan lives in the Kakadu area with her family and has been employed full-time on the Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program since early 2009.
The program, funded through the Australian Government's Working on Country program, is helping to boost Indigenous job opportunities in the park. It contributes to the Closing the Gap target of halving the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous job outcomes within a decade.
'The Kakadu Indigenous Ranger Program is great - it's helped me get real experience across lots of different areas in Kakadu,' Samantha said. 'Since I started in the ranger program, I've worked in the Mary River District doing weed work and helping to open visitor sites like Gunlom and Koolpin Gorge after the wet season. I've helped coordinate staff training, and worked in the Bowali Visitor Centre giving tourists advice on great things to do at Kakadu. I've also completed a fair bit of training with the park, and at the moment I'm working on a project to record the oral histories of senior traditional owners in the park, which I'm really enjoying.
'I grew up at outstations in Kakadu and my kids are now growing up in the park and going to school here. I love working in the field, and in future my goal is to work as a full-time ranger in the Jim Jim District in Kakadu.'
There are many social and economic benefits to the Kakadu Indigenous community, as rangers develop networks and increase their social participation through employment while enhancing their own living standards and those of their families.