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Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (October 2011)

Published: November, 2011

CLC Chair, Lindsay Bookie (centre) with Atnetye ALT and Prime Minister Gillard

Finke and Simpson Desert handbacks make history

The handback took place during a ceremony at the Alice Springs Desert Park that also saw a large part of the Simpson returned to Aboriginal ownership.

Both of the handbacks were carried out under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

The Lhere Pirnte Aboriginal Land Trust now holds the title to the 422-square kilometre Finke Gorge National Park, 138 kilometres west of Alice Springs.

The Finke Gorge National Park was immediately leased back to the Northern Territory Government for 99 years to be jointly managed by the nt Parks and Wildlife Service and by the traditional owners.

Aboriginal people have been involved in tourism in the area since the 1950s and have always had a vision for jointly managing the park to maximise its attractions.

Traditional owner Conrad Ratara said everybody was very excited about the handback and its leaseback as a Northern Territory national park.

“It’s a really good thing after all these years,” Mr Ratara said.

“We’ve got to work together – let’s work straight and walk down the road together and keep walking together.”

The traditional owners are mostly Western Arrernte people, many of whom live around Hermannsburg and local outstations.

Nearly everybody in the area has a connection to Finke Gorge through the three estate groups of Ntaria, Roulbmaulbma and Uruna.

Each estate is marked and dissected by various dreamings and sites.

The park will continue to operate as it has done in the past but under joint management it will be developed and enriched by the input of its traditional owners.

The Tjuwanpa Rangers employed by the Central Land Council at Hermannsburg have already been working in the park for several years and will increase their involvement in the park under joint management.

CLC Director David Ross congratulated the traditional owners.

“I know this ceremony today will make a lot of people very happy,” Mr Ross said.

“They have waited a long time and they are keen to take advantage of the new opportunities presented to them by joint management.

“I wish them all the best,” Mr Ross said.

Finke Gorge supported a lot of Aboriginal families quite comfortably in ancient times due to the permanent water and the richness of its resources.

It is deeply imbued with the cultural and spiritual values of its Aboriginal owners and internationally recognised as a site of botanical significance.