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Loves Creek station now Aboriginal land

Posted: Thu, July 19, 2012

One of Central Australia’s oldest pastoral leases is about to be handed back to its Aboriginal traditional owners.

 Loves Creek, 60 kilometers east of Alice Springs, at the eastern end of the MacDonnell Ranges, will become inalienable Aboriginal freehold land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

The claim covers 3760 square kilometers and more than 2000 cattle are currently agisted on it by the G&C Pastoral Company.

This arrangement will be formalised with a lease after the handback . Loves Creek Station was established in 1896 and has been used to run cattle for more than 100 years.

Despite this, its Eastern Arrernte traditional owners have maintained strong cultural links with the country and some still work on the property today.

During the 1880s the area had a chequered history of violent and often tragic clashes between settlers and Aboriginal people which was then followed by an influx of ruby and gold miners .

After the miners left the area, many of the traditional owners worked on the property as stockmen, water drawers, shepherds, domestics and at jobs like milking the goats.

The Eastern Arrernte traditional owners maintained some form of continuing association with their land in the Loves Creek region even though many had moved to the Catholic mission at Santa Teresa, Amoonguna and camps near Harts Range and Alice Springs.

During the 1970s the traditional landowners started lobbying for living spaces on the property and the CLC helped them purchase it using ABTA (Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account, now the ABA) funds in March 1993.

A land claim was lodged in 1994.

The station was run by the traditional owners for a number of years until drought and the initial poor state of the property at purchase led them to enter into the current agistment arrangement.

The long history of pastoralism has led to severe degradation of parts of the property and programs are being undertaken to regenerate those areas. A sunset clause in the Aboriginal Land Rights Act meant that no more land could be claimed after 1997.

The land claims that are being granted now were lodged before that date. A successful land claim requires the Aboriginal landowners to prove their traditional relationship to the land under claim.

This involves extensive research by anthropologists, and the claimants providing evidence before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner who is a judge of the Federal Court or the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.

The Commissioner must be satisfied that the claimants are the right traditional owners according to Aboriginal law.

Communal title is formally vested in Aboriginal Land Trusts comprised of Aboriginal people who hold the title for the benefit of all the traditional landowners.

It is not held by Land Councils.

The only land able to be claimed is unalienated Crown land – land that no-one else is using or has an interest in – or land which is wholly owned by Aboriginal people.