The colour of the dirt might have been different, but according to the Gumatj clan, the moment was no less significant.
At Gulkula in Northeast Arnhem Land, Gumatj leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu poured a handful of bauxite into the hands of Rio Tinto workers Jim Singer and Ken Kahler, just as Gough Whitlam had done with Vincent Lingiari at Wave Hill 51 years ago.
‘I feel proud. I feel more proud than ever before,’ Dr Yunupingu said.
The mine will sell it’s product to Rio Tinto for export to domestic and international customers.
Rio Tinto Gove Operations general manager Linda Murry said the significance of the mine’s opening couldn’t be understated.
‘As the first indigenous bauxite mine, fully owned, all through the supply chain, this is world breaking,’ she said.
Gumatj Corporation chief executive Klaus Helms said the mine would provide 10 real jobs for the local Yolngu people, adding to the Gumatj’s other commercial projects which include a timber mill, abattoir, butcher shop and concrete batching plant.
‘We end up at this stage with around 65 full-time indigenous employees and we hope to build that up to about 100 employees by the end of 2018,’ he said.
Two of the mine’s new employees come from the first round of graduates from the Gulkula Training College.
Ten students graduated from the college on December 1, and all of them have secured full-time work in the local area.
The mine’s opening followed the signing of a 99-year township lease at Gunyangara.
Dr Yunupingu said the mine had only been possible because had only been possible because his people had been allowed to make their own decisions about the use of their land.
This was originally published by Sky News.