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NT appeals Mt Allen title handover

November 1988

Vol 2, No 11 November 1988 Claim lodged: 2.11.79 Title dated: 19.10.88 Area of Grant: 2515 sq km Number of Claimants: 488

When Frankie Japanangka received the title papers from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the 19th October, the nine year saga of the Mt Allan land claim was over.

Or so it seemed.

A week later the Northern Territory Government was in the Federal Court in Sydney seeking a declaration that the handover was invalid. Mount Allan is a pastoral station 240 kilometres north west of Alice Springs. the lease was purchased by Aborigines in 1976 and so became open to claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

In November 1979 the Central Land Council lodged the land claim on behalf of the Warlpiri and Anmatyerre traditional owners.

The Aboriginal Land Commissioner Kearney heard the evidence in July and August 1982, and in March 1985 his report recommending the vast bulk of the land claim be granted was given to the Minister.

Mr Justice Kearney found that the strong traditional attachment to the land was demonstrated by the regular performance of ceremony and ritual, the instruction of the young in traditional law and the possession and safeguarding of sacred objects. He also noted that Mt Allan is a well-run and profitable cattle station.

In June the Minister announced his attention to grant but this was stymied by legal action by the NT Government. They argued that the disused stock route which traverses Mt Allan was "a road over which the public has a right of way" and therefore should be excluded from the grant.

After losing in the Federal Court, the NT went to the High Court. Again their appeal was dismissed. Three years and thousands of taxpayers dollars later, the Minister was able to proceed with the grant. Mr Frankie Japanangka received the title on behalf of the Yalpirankinu Aboriginal Land Trust.

The (then) CLC Chairman, Wenten Rubuntja, commented that it was the first land to be returned for two years.

"I wish this land rights business would work more quickly," he said, "but all the time the NT Government keep running to the court to try and stop Aboriginal people from getting their land." Mr Japanangka had just returned home from Canberra when new came that the NT had again taken legal action.

This time they are arguing that five inter-station roads on Mt Allan should be excluded from the grant.

The Land Commissioner had found these were private roads. The NT says that they are public roads and therefore not open to claim. Meantime they have obtained an injunction preventing the Registrar General from registering the title. The Mt Allan land claim saga continues.