The Mirrar are an Aboriginal Australian indigenous people who’s traditional home lies in the countries Northern Territory. Specifically the Mirrar inhabit areas of the Kakuda national park, Jabiluka billabong country and parts of Mount Brockman. The Mirrar have claimed nearly all of their traditional lands under the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act with the exception of the excised site of Jabiluka town and the surrounding area. Though the successfully claimed land is considered Mirrar territory this people do not maintain strict boundaries with relation to other aboriginal groups.
Three aboriginal languages are spoken amongst the Mirrar with Gundjehimi the most widely practiced of these. English is also spoken and the Mirrar display, as many indigenous peoples do, a great aptitude for linguistics. The group has a small population of only twenty six adult members. Traditionally the Mirrar practice hunting and gathering but also use environmental controls in the form of monitored burnings which encourage germination and also act to prevent uncontrollable wild fires. Their connection to their land is further strengthened by the important practice of maintaining Mirrar sacred sites.
The Mirrar report that European Anthropologists have traced this groups connection to their country back to at least forty thousand years ago. Calling themselves “custodians since time immemorial” they were amongst the first groups of Aborigines to receive rights to their traditional lands under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Despite this they have been constantly threatened, legislated against and coerced by government authorities and mining groups.
Against the wishes of traditional Mirrar owners and despite a mining veto provision in the land rights act ways have been found to make mining concessions on Mirrar land which lies a-top extensive uranium deposits. The Ranger Uranium mine was established just in time to avoid the veto provision and the Mirrar are powerless to rid themselves of it as a result, they have however fought hard to prevent another mine such as this one. Such a venture has been threatening the Mirrar for sometime in the form of plans for a Jabiluka mine. Though plans were buried in 1983 by Bob Hawke they were re-established in the nineties to devastating effect. Despite Mirrar opposition mining company North Limited began construction on the site prompting UNESCO to declare itself ‘gravely concerned about the serious impacts on the living cultural values of Kakadu National Park posed by the proposal’. After desecrating Boyweg Almudj sacred site with toxic waste North Limited were forced to walk away. It is now thought the Jabiluka mine will never go ahead. This is a major victory for the Mirrar and Aboriginal land rights which have been historically manipulated to vast degrees, allowing exploitation such as that suffered by the Mirrar.
Today the Mirrar people continue to care for their sacred sites, practice their traditional customs and are involved in concerted efforts to teach young Mirrar in these lifeways to achieve cultural survival and continuity. They are resolved to face down any future challenges to the title they rightly hold with the same tenacity that ensured Mirrar Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula was awarded the Friends of the Earth International Environment award in 1998.