Deeds of title for the Urapunga township near Ngukurr and the old Elsey homestead near Mataranka have been handed to Traditional Owners in an historic deal undertaken by Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt on Thursday.

Urapunga is on the traditional country of the Budal Yutpundji-Milwarapara group, who speak Ngalakan language.

Only a small community 320km south-east of Katherine, Urapunga was officially proclaimed in 1887, but land in the town remained unsold and the town struggled to thrive other than on paper.

Northern Land Council chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said the return of land represented a bittersweet end to the long struggle fought by many generations of Traditional Owners.

“The old people for this country have handed down stories about terrible days in the Urapunga area and right along the Roper River country back in the 1870s and 1880s,” he said.

“Our mob didn’t want pastoral development and there were many violent confrontations between our mob and the pastoralists and others who followed them.

“Today we honour the lives of the old people who kept our laws, our culture, our language and our lives strong.”

NLC Chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi was master of ceremonies.

Mr Bush-Blanasi congratulated the Traditional Owners on their achievements as well as those of the old Elsey homestead site

“It has been a long time coming but this ceremony today links up our ancestors with the current generations on this land,” he said.

“Although we are sad that the old people didn’t live to see this day, to see this land coming back to all the young ones here today, we are also really happy.

“Any day that any land is returned to its rightful Aboriginal owners is a very good day.”