National Parks

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Jenny Macklin hands title to the traditional owners of N’Dhala Gorge National Park in the NT

Some of the Northern Territory's most beautiful national parks are located in the CLC's region, and many of these are now jointly managed by their Aboriginal traditional owners and by the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife service.

One of Australia’s most famous icons, Uluru, in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is on Aboriginal land within the Central Land Council region.

Other famous tourist attractions such as the Devil's Marbles (Karlu Karlu) and the West MacDonnell National Park, are also in the CLC region.

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has been under joint management of traditional owners and Parks Australia since 1985 when it was leased back to the Australian Government for 99 years, but traditional owners have had little or no say in the management and care of other parks, despite sites inside the parks often holding deep spiritual significance for Aboriginal people.

However in 2003, the Northern Territory Government agreed to joint management with the traditional owners of the Territory's national parks.

The Parks and Reserves (Framework for the Future) Act provided for the settlement of outstanding land and native title claims affecting 27 parks and reserves. The Act wasn't passed until 2005. Site visits, planning meetings and workshops are laying the foundations of a system of joint management for the 19 parks in the Central Land Council region.

In 2005 the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act was also amended, setting out the principles and objectives for joint management of these parks. The joint management agreement was reached after successful negotiations between the Northern Territory Government and the CLC.

Of the 19 parks, 15 have (or will soon have) received a transfer of tenure with an immediate lease back to the NT Government for 99 years.

Joint management arrangements require a joint management plan to be passed through the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly before they become jointly managed parks. Consulting with traditional owners to complete the plans has been a priority for the CLC.

Karlu Karlu and the Davenport Murchison were the first parks to be handed handed back to its traditional owners in 2008 and since then 12 more parks have been handed back – most recently in June 2011 Finke Gorge was handed back.

Joint management combines traditional knowledge and contemporary land management practices. The change in management approach provides employment opportunities for Aboriginal people and protects culturally sensitive areas while still allowing the wider community to enjoy parks without any fees or permits for entry.

New management plans are being developed collaboratively with traditional owners for all parks under joint management arrangements, these plans can be viewed on the Parks and Wildlife website

Aboriginal trainee rangers have been appointed to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station and two CLC ranger groups – Tjuwanpa and Maru-warinyi Ankkul Rangers are already engaged in the Flexible Employment Program fee-for-service work.

Cultural mapping of the parks by traditional owners as part of the planning process has provided opportunities for older Aboriginal people to share their stories of the country with visitors and has identified culturally sensitive areas that need protection.

The general public may not notice much different about its favourite parks, but the move to joint management will see a change in the levels of engagement and employment prospects of Aboriginal people traditionally associated with that land - and further into the future an increasingly Aboriginal identity to each park.