Kakadu is first and foremost a cultural landscape in the truest sense of the term. Host to a rich, ancient and abiding Aboriginal cultural heritage, evidenced by hundreds of thousands of prehistoric rock art paintings, dreaming tracks and sites of significant cultural importance, whose age-old stories have been handed down from tens of thousands of years ago to the present day.
Human occupation of the region dates to 60,000 years, which is about 2000 generations of people. One of Australia’s oldest human occupation sites is on Mirarr land. The site, located at the base of a sandstone outlier and replete with traditional rock art covering a wide range of styles and time periods is within the Jabiluka mineral lease, itself entirely surrounded by Kakadu National Park.
By comparison, British colonial occupation of the region only commenced the 1890s. Even by Australian standards this is recent: just five or six generations.
The non-Aboriginal infrastructure components of Kakadu are even more recent - roads, the town of Jabiru, the mines, the airstrips, the national park and other features date mostly from the 1980s. Two generations at most.
The large-scale non-Aboriginal presence in the region is very, very recent.
A World Heritage status national park, the second largest uranium mine in the world, the mining town of Jabiru, an international hotel and other major tourism enterprises and their corresponding service providers as well as the network of main roads that slice through the area. These are the defining non-Aboriginal features that dominate the region.
They bring all manner of prospects and challenges with which Bininj (local Aboriginal people) must contend and from which they seek to derive some lasting benefits.