Central Mt Wedge title handed over

July 1999

Land Rights News July 1999 A former pastoral lease, Central Mt Wedge, 350 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs has been handed back by the Governor General Sir William Deane, to traditional owners under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

Central Mt Wedge was purchased by the Ngarlatji Aboriginal Corporation on behalf of Luritja, Anmatyerr and Warlpiri traditional owners in 1995.

A land claim under the Land Rights Act was then lodged and a hearing was held in 1996. Some 200 claimants showed the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Justice Gray, the many sites and performed songs and ceremonies during the week long hearing.

Traditional owners faced particularly strong opposition from the NT Cattlemen's Association when they tried to establish an outstation on the property in the early 1990's. The Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust on behalf of traditional owners will now hold the title to the former station.


Barrow Creek

July 1999

Land Rights News July 1999 The Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Justice Olney, was shown the birthplace of the Kaytetye language and culture by traditional owners at a land claim hearing at Barrow Creek, 280 kilometres north of Alice Springs.

More than 30 claimants took part in the hearing and showed Justice Olney many other sacred sites in the area.

The claim covers a little more than 12.5 square kilometres of land around the Barrow Creek area. The land was in the past a reservation for the Barrow Creek Telegraph Station.

The old racecourse, the Thangkenharenge Resource Centre and the old Telegraph Station are included in the area claimed but not the hotel at Barrow Creek. Traditional owners still live on the claim area, despite a lack of housing and public facilities and the Stuart Highway running through the middle of their country.

Claimants said they would remain there and build houses if the land claim was successful. Secure title under the Land Rights Act would enable claimants to get funding for houses and essential services.

Many Kaytetye people living in other areas will be able to visit Barrow Creek more often, or live there, if housing, electricity and others services are more readily available.The Barrow Creek Telegraph Station, built in 1872, had a profound impact on the Kaytetye.

Virtually overnight they were confronted with a new human presence in their lives, new animals like goats and cows, and new technology such as the telegraph line strung across the country.

A Kaytetye man used to tell the story of an old man who told him about first encountering the ''singing wires' of the telegraph line.

The old man told of listening to the humming wires, and, thinking that bees were alerting him to honey, or 'sugarbag' inside the poles. When he chopped down the pole, he found iron inside instead, which he said, made an exceptional tomahawk.

The presence of a permanent settlement and large numbers of stock put heavy pressures on Kaytetye resources and in 1874 a police officer was stationed at Barrow Creek to prevent cattle killing.

A week later one of the most tragic events in the history of the region began. During the evening of 22 February 1874, a number of Aboriginal men descended from the hill behind the Telegraph Station and fatally speared the Station Master and a linesman.

The Kaytetye say the attack was in response to the theft of their land and the exploitation of the women by the new settlers. Reprisal was swift and severe and many innocent Aboriginal people were killed in the months following the event.

It is expected that the Report from the Aboriginal Land Commissioner Mr Justice Olney will take some months.


Talking history: M Japangka at McClaren Creek

November 1998

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 11 November 1988

I grew up with horses and cattle. I was working at Kurundi station.

I did everything - droving, branding mustering, breaking horses, fencing, making a yard, everything. It was no easy life, we were just using a shovel and crowbar.

And I'm still going. Its little but hard for people like me now, you know, getting older. We had no motor care before, no buggy, nothing. Just horses. We grew up with horses. That droving job was hard work. We were droving from Kurundi to Queensland and also to Alice Springs. It took 5 or 6 weeks to take them down to Alice Springs for trucking. It's a long way and you had to watch the cattle at night.

There was no yard and maybe five, six or seven hundred cattle and five men. You have to be a good man, understand man for cattle. We used pack horses. Pack them up every morning, pull them up for dinner and again at night to make camp.

And in the morning pack them up again. You've got to be a good man to ride horses every day. It's not fun. Big work and no money.

We been working just for tea, shirt and hat, that's all, no good money. I been working there at Kurundi for a long time - since I had no whiskers. George Birchmore was the boss then.

When the army came through (World War 2) we were working there. When the army finished, we were still working there. At Kurundi we didn't have houses. No houses, no sheet of iron, nothing like that. We just had humpies, grass huts, that's all.

The boss gave us a blanket and a campsheet to keep the rain away. We got very low wages. They had a shop at Kurundi and that used to take half our wages straight away.

So in 1977 we walked off Kurundi. We walked off easy way. We knew what was coming, this land rights law was coming, so we just walked off quietly. A good mob of us walked off with our families. We were sitting down over there at a place called Ngurrutiji.

That's my father's country. We stopped there when we come away from Kurundi station. In 1985 we bought this McLaren Creek station and you know when I first came to this place there was nothing. No cattle, nothing. Just place.

That was three years ago. No horses for riding, nothing. We came here with a Toyota and looked around, "where's the horses?" No horses to ride. "Where's the cattle?", no cattle, nothing. We had the old truck here from the station but one day they came up and took it away. So I looked all over for cattle.

The first time we were away for six days. We saw a few wild brumby that's all. I tried hard to catch them but I couldn't. So I came and talked to the old people and said "well what are we going to do?". And we said "o.k. we've got to trap those brumby." So I went back to Ngurrutiji.

We had a few horses there from Kurundi. Riding horses. You know they used to give us a little bit of money and horses. We'd tailed them to Ngurrutiji. We only had the one saddle, that's all.

We had a tractor and my brother Dick Riley he drove it and we rode the horses. We went across that way and saw a few tracks. So we made a camp and looked around. We found them all right. Might have been six brumby cattle, wild cattle.

We made traps too. Make the fence around the water there and make it so they can come in, but they get fat with water and can't get out. You've got to be a proper man to think about how wide it's got to be. Bullock size. People like me don't read and write, so you've just got to think it out good.

They fill up with water and got to stay there until man comes along to catch them. Sometimes we stayed away for two weeks looking for brumbies. We'd get four or five over that way, maybe six over there, maybe some more over the other side.

I also use the Toyota, the bull bar on the Toyota. Knock him down with the bull bar, tie him up with rope. Tie up the front legs and the back legs and let him lie down. Then we'd go and get the pen, put up a yard and let him stand up.

We'd keep getting them and bringing them back to McLaren and putting them in the yard for a few weeks - quietening them and feeding them. You have to leave them in the yard to get quiet. Otherwise if you let them go straight away, you'll lose them again. Quieten them down first.

We were just doing it the Aboriginal way, my old way. We're horsemen. The helicopter, we've seen it a lot of times before. It rounds them up ok, but they die later from too much galloping. The helicopter scares them.

I've seen them kill too many. We're not helicopter men, we're horsemen. Now we claim this country because it's our father's country. We've been working on stations all our life, working for someone else.

Now we can work for ourselves.

I've been working hard, battling for something. Getting our land back means we can carry on and our children can carry on after us. That's the way we want it - to look after everything and do a good job.

We're still doing it the olden time way.

Go around with the horses checking up the waterholes and fixing the bores. Now there's no whiteman looking after the bores, we've got to do it ourselves.

We've got a good few cattle here now. We've been grow them up all the way, nearly 200 head of cattle.

We had a meeting and they picked me to be the manager because I understand cattle. We've got to do all this fencing around the paddock now and clean it up and fix the bore then go and look for cattle again. You know, you can't do all that in one day.



Western Desert claim settled

July 1996

Land Rights News Vol 2 No 39 Jul 1996.

Traditional landowners were spared the exhaustive process of presenting evidence before the Federal Land Commissioner when the final part of the Western Desert Land Claim was settled by the Central Land Council (CLC) and the Northern Territory Government in May.

The settlement of the claim over 2,936 sq kms of land abutting the Western Australian border, recognises the strong cultural and spiritual links traditional owners have maintained over the land. It also provides certainty as to the future status of the land to third parties such as exploration and mining companies active in the region.

This claim was the northern most part of the original Western Desert Claim which was not recommended for grant.

The CLC, on instructions from claimants, proposed a settlement offer which incorporated the interests of the Parks and Wildlife Commission - the old Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory - which had raised environmental issues during the original claim. Agreement on the terms and conditions included a provision that the NT Government will not oppose the scheduling of the land claim area into the Aboriginal Land Rights(Northern Territory) Act. (ALRA)

Under the agreement a committee of four traditional owners and two Parks and Wildlife representatives will oversee fire management, feral animal control and flora and fauna surveys at which the CLC will have observer status.

This committee will run for five years and the traditional landowners have agreed that they will not run cattle on the area for that time. Traditional owners are now awaiting the scheduling of the area under the ALRA by the new Federal Government in line with the settlement agreement.


Central Mt Wedge back

October 1995

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 37 Oct 1995

News that the 3244 sq kilometre Mt Wedge pastoral lease some 350 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs was to be put up for auction earlier this year generated a great deal of excitement and interest from the Anmatyere traditional owners.

As a result of direct negotiations by the Central Land Council on their behalf, the sale of the property to the Ngarlatji Aboriginal Land Corporation is now being finalised. The Corporation was able to purchase the station with funding assistance from the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account.

About 150 people currently living in the region at Laramba, Yuendumu and Mt Allen are looking forward to moving back to their country when the sale is finalised. The Anmatyere people have always maintained strong ties to this country.

The establishment of the Karrinyarra Outstation on the station against vigorous opposition from the powerful NT Cattleman's Association was an inspiring testament to their resolve. Spectacular Mt Wedge runs straight through the property and water is fairly plentiful.

The traditional owners are considering their options including the possibility of starting a horticultural enterprise and have asked the Central Land Council's Land Information Section to carry out a comprehensive assessment for sustainable land usage using the advanced Geographic Information System.

The traditional owners are very pleased and excited about the return of their country and have given instructions to the Central Land Council to lodge a land claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act as soon as the purchase has been finalised.


Mt Frederick repeat claim won

October 1995

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 37 October 1995 Western Desert (South) Repeat Land Claim Lodged: 1980 Title Returned: 8 Sept 1995 Area returned: 2350 sq kms

The handover of title to 2350 sq kilometres of land in the remote Tanami Desert near the Western Australian border will benefit more than 180 traditional owners form three different language groups.

The titles were handed back to the Mt Frederick (No 2) Land Trust by the Commonwealth Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Robert Tickner, at the ceremony on Mangkururrpa Aboriginal Land Trust, formerly Tanami Downs, just south of the claim area.

Despite its remoteness, the area is culturally diverse, in part because of its extraordinary sometimes violent history over the past 100 years.

Pastoral and gold mining activities have had an enormous impact on the lives of the people in the region since the first European settlement in 1880s. Government Residence reports, European biographies, local histories, Aboriginal oral traditions and the personal experience of the claimants all attest to the brutality and fear perpetrated on the Aboriginal people in the region.

By 1944 the decline of the number of Aboriginal people on stations prompted the Vestey's Group to initiate a plan to settle Aboriginal people on stations to provide a permanent labour force for their network of cattle properties in the north west.

The station labour recruitment plan included the claim area and the older claimants have a host of stories about working for the frequently brutal station managers, about cattle killing, goat stealing, being arrested and seeing relatives shot.

Many were moved from the claim area during this era. Although the claim was first lodged as part of the Western Desert Land Claim in 1980, research for the claim was difficult because of poor access to the claim area for claimants and researchers.

It was not until Tanami downs was acquired by Aboriginal people and mining companies had graded better roads through the area, that access became easier and the Central Land Council was able to gain more knowledge of traditional ownership of the area.

A repeat claim was lodged and was accepted by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in September 1994 and an offer to settle the claim was made by the Northern Territory Government late last year.

Mr Tickner said "Of major importance is the fact that the speedy resolution of these claims will allow the handovers of title to take place while elderly traditional owners are still alive." The Tanami and Granites gold mines are both close and much of the area is already covered by exploration licences. A mineral exploration agreement between leading goldminer North Flinders Mines and the traditional landowners has already been signed under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, in anticipation of the land being returned under Aboriginal Freehold title.

The agreement guarantees protection for sacred sites and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people, should the company decide that mining is viable in the area. The Director of the CLC Tracker Tilmouth said that the agreement was the first of its type signed by the CLC, since at that stage the land was still under claim, but certainly for both sides had been attained in anticipation of the claim being granted.

Mr Tilmouth said "Aboriginal people are not averse to mining but the are concerned about the protection of their sacred sites. This agreement, signed under Section 48A of the Land Rights Act, gives both the traditional owners and the mining company certainty for the future."


Claim settlement speeds return of title

April 1995

Land Rights News Vol 2 No 35 April 1995 Warlmanpa, Warlpiri, Mudbura and Warumunga Land Claim Claim Lodged: 1978 Returned: 25 November 1994 Area returned: 1,175 sq km

The return of 1175 square kilometres of land in the far northern reaches of the Tanami desert last November has finally concluded the 16 year struggle of the Mudbura and Warlpiri traditional landowners for their land. Title to the land was handed to the Wampana-Karlantijpa Land Trust at a ceremony at Dagaragu on 25 November, 1994.

The area, bordering Cattle Creek station in the Wave Hill region, lies about 300 km north west of Tennant Creek.

It lies close to the area where Gurindji people led the historic "walk-off" from Wave Hill station to Dagaragu, helping to ignite the land rights movement and win national recognition for their struggle for the land. Wampana (hare wallaby) dreaming, passes through the claim area.

The claim was first lodged in 1978 as part of a much larger claim over land traditionally owned by Warlmanpa, Warlpiri, Mudbura and Warumungu people. Hearing of the Warlmanpa, Warlpiri, Mudbura and Warumungu Land Claim began in 1980, but the area was not recommended for grant by the then Land Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey, due to the lack of key evidence from a senior traditional landowner who was absent from the hearing. However after further research, a repeat land claim was accepted and scheduled for hearing in September 1993.

A week before the hearing was due to be heard, the Northern Territory Government made an offer to settle the claim, proposing that the Commonwealth Government 'schedule' the claim area under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

Settlement of the claim in this way sped the return of title and spared the claimants and the Central Land Council the considerable work and expense of conducting claim hearings.

A condition of the settlement offer was that detriment issues affecting neighbouring Cattle Creek station would be resolved.

An amicable settlement with station management permitted Cattle Creek to retain fencing and cattle grazing on part of the claim area in return for fencing and protecting a sacred site from cattle damage. Traditional landowners were also involved in a 'sacred sites clearance program' to ensure that sacred sites would not be damaged during construction of new fencing on the station.

At the title handover ceremony, senior claimant Engineer Jack welcomed the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in language and spoke of the long struggle to win back land through the land claim process. The smooth resolution of the land claim was welcomed by both the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Mr Robert Tickner, and Central Land Council Director Tracker Tilmouth.

"It's been pleasing that the Northern Territory Government decided to settle with this claim. It makes our life a bit easier. People like this mob have been waiting for their country to come back for years, and struggling, battling," Mr Tilmouth said.

However Mr Tilmouth pointed out that getting land back is only the first step, and that a further struggle for funds and resources lies ahead of the traditional landowners wanting to return to live on their country.

"It's a bit hard getting back country if you don't have the resources to go back to it; to build up outstations if you don't have housing and water."

"You people are old now, you've got kids following up and you're going to have to go back and show them the country, live on the outstations, and you can't do that without proper resources," Mr Tilmouth said.

Northern Territory MHR Warren Snowdon sent messages of congratulations on the 'very special occasion' of the title ceremony. "I understand that it's been a very long time coming, but at last you have some reward for your hard work and years of struggle.

On occasions like this none of us should ever forget that it's the Land Rights Act which allows you to pursue your rightful claims to land and without it, it would be even harder for Aboriginal people who have been unjustly deprived of their land to achieve justice."

In congratulating the traditional landowners, Mr Tickner commended those who had struggled so hard and long for their land as "real Aboriginal heroes."

"They are people who have done so much over a very long period of time to keep the culture strong, and to be able finally to win I think is a great tribute to everyone here. It is wonderful that groups of people have come together to work for the land."

Recalling the historic associations of the site of the title ceremony with the early land rights movement, Mr Tickner said, "It is all so very recent. When you think Aboriginal occupation of the land going back 40,000 years and you think non-Aboriginal people have only passed through here in the last 130 years, you know it's a speck in time in history." "It is a just outcome that the land is now returned to the traditional owners," Mr Tickner said.

Mr Tickner congratulated the Central Land Council for "its strength and support for the claims of the people." "I pay deepest respect to the people who have worked so hard to get the land back."


Western Desert repeat claim scheduled

November 1994

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 34 Nov 1994.

The substantive rehearing on the Western Desert (Repeat) Claim has been scheduled to be heard on the claim area late this month.

The original Western Desert Land Claim was heard in May 1989 with the Land Commissioner handing down his findings in September 1990.

The Commissioner did not recommend two distinct blocks of the original claim for grant. The remoteness and difficult access to the area hampered research during the original claim.

The claim area is located in the Tanami region near the Western Australian border. The CLC carried out further research following the Commissioner's findings, focusing mainly on the southern part of the land claim area (not granted).

The purchase and subsequent claiming of Tanami Downs Pastoral lease as well as new tracks has assisted with research.

The Land Commissioner took submissions from the Central Land Council (on behalf of the claimants) on 19 September 1994 in Alice Springs.

He accepted that there was now new material that could be relied on and that it was likely, given the submissions made by the CLC, that on a substantive rehearing of the matter the claimants might be found to be the traditional owners of the area.


Simpson Desert to Eastern Arernte

November 1994

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 34 November 1994 North and North West Simpson Desert Land Claim Claim lodged: 1980 Recommended for grant: Sept 1991 (NW) and Sept 1992 (North) Title handback: 19 August 1994 Total area: 23,000 square km

Eastern Arrernte people celebrated the return of title to their traditional lands in the North and North West Simpson Desert on 19 August when some 23,000 square kilometres of land was handed back by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Robert Tickner.

A ceremony was held at Akarnenhe Well (pronounced A-karn-ah-nah) about 250 kilometres east of Alice Springs.

Around 180 people were at the handover ceremony including many traditional owners who travelled long distances. An enormous cake was made for the celebration. Eastern Arrernte people have been waiting for the return of their land since 1980 when the original claim for the area was first lodged. This was the first major piece of Eastern Arrernte land handed back to them. "Eastern Arrernte people were subjected to typically horrific Government regulations since first contact with Europeans," CLC Director Tracker Tilmouth said.

"The South Australian Parliament passed laws to remove and pacify any Aboriginal people likely to impede European expansion. Pastoralists and Miners moved quickly and by the lat 1800s lease applications covered much of the Eastern Arrernte's land."

"The handover of title to the traditional owners shows that the Land Rights Act is able to benefit our people who have been dispossessed of their lands."

Mr Tilmouth said most of the land handed back is vacant Crown land however, there is a 4,000 square kilometre area included called Apiwentye (pronounced A-pair-in-ya) Station which has been owned and successfully operated by Aboriginal people since 1989.

Apiwentye was formerly called Atula Stn. "Many of the traditional owners returned from a number of areas including Mount Isa and Alice Springs for the handover ceremony," Mr Tilmouth said.

"This is yet another example of the forced dispossession of our people. Elders are only now able to return to the lands of their grandmothers and grandfathers after such long periods away."

Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Robert Tickner described the area as harsh by the standards of most Australians, but it was of enormous significance to the Eastern Arrernte, who were among the most dispossessed Aboriginal people of the NT.

He said despite the dispossession, the Eastern Arrernte had maintained cultural links with the area throughout the period. The claim covers two areas: The North Simpson Desert (17,700 square km) and the North West Simpson Desert (5,250 square km).


The Warumungu Land Claim

August 1994

Land Rights News August 1994

The Land Claim was one of the longest and hardest-fought claims in the history of land rights.

The early white explorers described the Waramungu as a flourishing nation in the 1870s, but by 1915 the onslaught of invasion and reprisal had brought them to the brink of starvation.

The reserve that was set aside for the Waramungu in 1892 was revoked in 1934 to make way for gold prospectors and they were shunted to new reserves which were later also revoked, until by the 1960s, they were pushed of their traditional land altogether.

But the Waramungu would not give up. They made their first written application for land in 1975 when the Rockhampton Downs Aboriginal community asked for their land back so they could run their own affairs.

In 1978 the CLC lodged a claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act on behalf of the Waramungu. Their claim was one of longest and hardest fought in the history of the Act.

The Northern Territory tried to prevent the claim from proceeding by changing the status of the land under claim.

Land within town boundaries cannot be claimed, so in 1978 the Government enlarged the town boundaries of Tennant Creek to cover 750 square kilometres – the size of a major city.

Land which has been alienated – sold or leased – cannot be claimed, so in 1982 the Government Leased nine of the twelve areas under claim to Government-controlled corporation – a fact that they announced two days after the start of the hearing before Justice William Kearney in November 1982.

The resulting litigations went all the way to High Court and the hearing did not resume until March 1985 – this time before Aboriginal Land Commissioner Michael Maurice.

Maurice recommended the return of a large part of the claim in July 1988 – ten years after the claim was lodged.

It was another three years before any part of the land was handed back and five years before most was returned. Although the land had been recommended for grant the claimants were required to negotiate with other land users, such as Tennant Creek Town Council, pastoralists, businesses and the Northern Territory Government, to ensure their interests weren't adversely affected.


Luritja Land Fight wins Tempe Downs

December 1993

After more than 20 years the patient but continuously frustrated struggle of a large group of Luritja people to win back some of their land in Central Australia has finally met with success.

The neighbouring pastoral leases, Tempe Downs and Middleton Ponds, together totalling approximately 4,750 square kilometres were purchased on behalf of the traditional landowners in December 1993.

More than 350 traditional landowners who live or intend to live on their land will directly benefit from the purchase, while preliminary land claim research suggests that an overall total of more than 500 people have traditional affiliations to the area.

The purchase was considered to be the single most important land acquisition in the Central Land Council region.

It was a long-awaited victory for the Luritja group, who first incorporated the Luritja land Association in 1974, the first Aboriginal land rights organisation established in Central Australia. It was formed even before the Central Land Council and the advent of land rights in the Northern Territory.

Over more than 20 years the Luritja tried and exhausted every opportunity to win back some of their land. The first attempt by the group, led by Kunmanara Breaden, the current Chairman of the CLC, to seek help to purchase Tempe Downs was made in 1973 when the property was offered for sale to the then Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA).

Apparently failing to give any weight to the immense significance of the land for the traditional owners, the DAA rejected the offer on the grounds that parts of the lease were considered non-viable for a cattle enterprise and were being considered for use as a national park. Since then five Federal Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and every statutory authority with the capacity to make the purchase has been approached to assist the Luritja to buy the land, but a major obstacle was the unwillingness of the Adelaide-based owners to sell.

On many occasions the traditional landowners also attempted direct action to return to their country, but were thwarted by sometimes severe harassment from station management, illness, water, transport and supply problems.

Although the Lake Amadeus land claim was lodged on an area to the south of Tempe Downs in1980, the Northern Territory Government attempted to thwart the claim by granting a lease over the area for a tourist enterprise in 1981.

It was not until 1989 that Federal Court action initiated by the Northern Territory Government established that the lease was invalid. Despite the recommendation of the Land Commissioner, no land has yet been granted because of the failure of negotiations to resolve detriment to the leaseholders. Further Federal Court action, initially supported by the NT Government, was also taken last year to attempt to prevent the grant of the land under Aboriginal freehold title.

In the meantime, some 800 square kilometres of Tempe Downs was acquired for the Kings Canyon (Watarrka) National Park in 1983.

Ben Clyne expressed the extreme frustration and mistrust felt by the group towards the NT Government: "Gambling with Aboriginal people's lives like playing cards. For 10 years we've been asking quietly, 'Can we have some land? Here? Here? Here? Or where?' and all the time it's the same, they say 'No you can't have it.' This time we're being told it's for tourists. Before it was for cattle. All the time it's the same. We can't go on any longer like this." (Land Rights News 1983)

While three groups were eventually able to obtain tiny living areas within the park, only one living area was successfully negotiated on the pastoral lease.

The four totalled only 2.75 square kilometres from a total area of around 5,000 square kilometres.

"When they made the park we got a small area to live. This one is a small one you know, you can't run your horses. I've had to feed the horses, buying hay and all that," Mr Breaden said. The horses were to be part of a tourist trail ride enterprise associated with the national park, but without sufficient land for feed, the group could not proceed with their plans.

However since the purchase of Tempe Downs, the future is looking considerably brighter. A further six or seven groups which were unable to negotiate living areas with the previous leaseholder are keen to set up outstations on Tempe Downs.

"It's a good thing for me now, for other people too. I can run my horses, and we're looking forward to getting cattle at Tempe Downs too. We want to get steers for a start, for a couple of years, to see how we get on and then if it goes all right we might get breeders." "A lot of people will benefit too. We've got about seven outstations there now, trying to go back and stop there," said Mr Breaden.

"People are very happy. There's a lot of traditional owners - we purchased it for the whole lot, all the traditional owners. Some were born there, some with traditional interests - they're happy to come out there." "We might get a school at Tempe Downs later on. That's a long way away though. First we need proper houses, not tin sheds, but fixed houses. We need bores as well."

"That's a good thing that we've got that now. We've been struggling for over 20 years - before land rights started we were talking to the station owners. Now we've got the station now - we've purchased it. That's pretty good, for kids especially, for the next generation.

"I think they'll have a very different life from us. They might have different ideas. They won't have the struggle we older ones have had all our lives. They'll be all right. They'll be able to go ahead and do the work they like."

A pastoral management agreement is already in place and preliminary research has commenced on a land claim over the lease area. For Mr Breaden, who was born and worked on Tempe Downs and Middleton Ponds as a young man, the action can't begin too soon.

"I want to see the work start now. I want to do something straight away. I'm not ready to retire yet. I want to run the cattle - I'm still a bit lively! I still ride horse and I'm still all right."



Spotted Tiger Bore on Harts Range returned

August 1993

SPOTTED TIGER BORE ON HARTS RANGE RETURNED Vol2 No29 August 1993 Claim First Lodged: June 1984 Recommended for Grant: May 1992 Title Handback: July 6 1993 Area Returned: 5 sq km Two small areas, of approximately 1 square mile each (total 5 sq km), were returned to the Akekarrwenteme Ureyenge Aboriginal Land Trust on July 6. Mr Petrick said the community at nearby Atitjere, near Harts Range, had really been looking forward to receiving their title deeds from the Minister.

The titles, in the Harts Range area to the north-east of Alice Springs, were returned by the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Mr Robert Tickner.

The story of the Easter Arrernte traditional owners is tragically typical of the many Aboriginal peoples who have been dispossessed by the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory.

Mr Tickner spoke of the sad history which saw many people forcibly removed from the area to live on missions. "Conditions were often appalling and many people suffered from the newly introduced disease of meningitis, tuberculosis and trachoma," he said.

The traditional landowners saw their country not only invaded by pastoralists, but by an influx of miners in the 1930s and a large army base during World War II.

As has happened so often, it was Aboriginal labour which helped to establish and maintain the infrastructure used by pastoralists, miners and the army while they were steadily dispossessed of their country.

The two areas, Spotted Tiger Bore and Faxall's Well, are former water reserve land surrounded by Mount Riddock station. The areas were returned following a land claim which was first lodged in Jun 1984.

The claim hearing began in July 1991. There was extraordinary opposition to the claim, largely as a result of unfounded fears that a successful claim would deny prospectors and gem collectors access to the gemfields in the area.

However, not only will access to the public continue, the traditional landowners themselves are keen to take an active part in gem collecting in the region. Although the areas are extremely small, around 300 Eastern Arrernte people will benefit from the return of the land.

One group plans to live on the are and has enthusiastic plans to establish prospecting and cultural tourism enterprises.

"We are going to collect the gem stones and some help from the CLC we want to do some gem cutting and then sell the gems in our community store and in jewellery stores in town," said Tony Petrick.

"We also want tourists to come and have a look and a dig around. We will probably have a smaller tourist gem area and we may have some cultural tours as well." Mr Petrick said.


Tanami Downs : “Mongrel” station has new future

March 1993

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 27 Mar 1993 Area Returned: 4,200 sq km Mangkururrpa Aboriginal Land Trust Claim lodged: 19 June 1989 Title handed over: 21 December 1992

It was not until the beginning of this century that the traditional landowners of the area now known as Tanami Downs had to leave their country, after 22,000 years. Tanami Downs, until recently Mongrel Downs station, is about 700 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

The station is in the far north west of the Northern Territory, right on the Western Australia border.

It is virtually surrounded by Aboriginal land. To the north and east is the Central Desert Aboriginal Land Trust and to the south, the Yiningarra Aboriginal Land Trust. Tanami Downs was purchased for the traditional landowners with Aboriginal Development Commission fund in early 1989.

A land claim over the Tanami Downs lease area was lodged soon after and was heard by Land Commissioner Justice Olney in late 1990.

His report recommending the grant of the land was issued in March 1992.

The country is a mixture of "poor and excellent cattle country." Although droughts are regular, the station has some mountainous areas with permanent water and the central and northern portions are good plains covered with "neverfail" grass, claypans and lakes, providing the basis for the cattle operation.

When purchased the station was running about 3,500 head of cattle. In non-Aboriginal terms, Tanami Downs is very isolated. But from 22,000 years ago up until 1945, the area was a focus for large ceremonial meetings in favourable seasons. Traditional language groups in the region include Warlpiri, Ngarti, Kukatja and Kartangarurra.

These traditional landowners did not start to leave their country until around the turn of century, when encroachment by the pastoral industry began to force them away.

The process was speeded up by gold rushes to Tanami and the Granites in 1911 and 1932, both influxes of newcomers placing severe stress on the Aboriginal peoples' water and food resources.

The severe drought of 1929-31 further hastened the forced evacuation. By 1945 most of the people had been forced to leave claim area. Some fled to cattle stations over the border in Western Australia, to appalling living and working conditions.

Though later threatened with eviction from pastoral properties in the region, many still managed to stay near Gordon Downs and build a viable community at Ringer Soak, where many of the claimants are still living now. Others were taken to ration depots at Tanami, Granites and Balgo Hills during the 1940s and were later transferred to larger settlements under the Government's assimilationist policy.

Attempts to establish a reserve area for the people on their own country around this time failed because of the influence of mining interests. As a result of this dislocation, the traditional landowners have been scattered to some extraordinary distances over north east Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Many have lived at Balgo, Balgo station, Ringer Soak, Halls Creek and Kununurra in Western Australia, and at Lajamanu, Yuendumu, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs on the Northern Territory side.

Now the cattle operation continues under the direction of a management committee of traditional landowners. In making his recommendation that the land should be returned to the traditional landowning groups, Justice Olney said that about 500 claimants would be advantaged by the grant and a further 500 would benefit, primarily from being able to protect sacred sites and their cultural identity. Mining interests are still likely to be influential in the region.

The area is considered to be highly prospective and it si expected the traditional landowners will receive a number of exploration applications. Small communities are now starting up in the old "Mongrel Downs" station.

True to its "traditional non-Aboriginal" name, the formality of the title handover ceremony was disrupted by some snarling and snapping from the station dogs, adding humour and a few jokes to the occasion.

The old name implied a place of poor quality and little value, but that was never the way the true owners saw it. With security of title the old "Mongrel" Downs now has a completely different future.


From the days of whips and guns now we have our land back

October 1992

Land Rights News Wakaya-Alyawarre Land Claim Claim lodged: 1980 Recommended for grant: May 1990 Title Handback: 22 October 1992 Area returned to Wakaya: 1874 sq km Area returned to Alyawarre: 2065 sq km

On 22 October, the Governor General, Hon Bill Hayden, visited Wakaya traditional land in the Northern Territory to deliver land titles to the Wakaya and Alyawarre people. It was the first time Mr Hayden had personally officiated at a title handback ceremony, and only the second time a Governor General has done so, the last being the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Handback in 1985.

The remote outstation at Purrukwarra was crowded with hundreds of visitors. Traditional landowners and their families, some coming from Queensland, official parties, dignitaries, their staff and media crews streamed in for the ceremony.

The Governor General returned European title to two areas which were originally part of the Wakaya-Alyawarre Land Claim.

The Governor General's decision to return the deeds in person was welcomed by CLC Director, Kumanjayi Ross as an important symbolic gesture and a welcome indication of the Federal government's willingness to recognise the importance of meeting Aboriginal land needs.

However, he said it was very important to remember the struggle of people who can't claim their traditional country because it lies on pastoral land.

"Thousands of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are still dispossessed and suffering the consequences of being unable to get a secure place to love," he said.

Speaking at the title ceremony, the Governor General referred to the vital importance of land to the economic and cultural survival of Aboriginal people.

"The Aboriginal culture is very rich, as it explains the reasons of creation, existence and reasons of living for the Aboriginal people," he said.

The return of the title deeds ends a twelve year struggle by the traditional landowners to see the return of a small part of their country. Unfortunately, a significant part of the claim area was not recommended.

The title ceremony also saw the return of title to an 8 sq km "red area" at Wycliffe Well on the old North South Stock Route.

The title was accepted from the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs by Nugget Junerayi on behalf of the Ilyarne Aboriginal Land Trust.

After a lifetime of stockwork on Alroy Down, Nugget retired to Camooweal in Queensland where he now lives. the return of this tiny area will give the traditional landowners the opportunity to live on their land for the first time.

Following a family bereavement, Purrukwarra outstation had been unoccupied for some months. The title handback ceremony marked the end of 'sorry business' and the return of the family to the outstation.

The Alyawarre were protected from the first great waves of pastoral expansion last century by the Wakaya desert north of their country. They felt the harsh impact of non-Aboriginal invasion much later than the Walaya.

But by the 1920s Aboriginal people had been hunted away from their waterholes "with whips and guns" by pastoralists wanting the water for stock. Police Station waterhole on nearby Kurundi station was the launching point for police raids and reprisal parties against local Aboriginal people. Survivors took up stockwork on stations in the region, but conditions were so harsh that many fled the violence and brutality of the pastoral employers of the era.

Like the Wakaya they moved towards Queensland where more protective, but extremely restrictive laws were in place. Some of the Alyawarre remained in the Hatches Creek area, where wolfram was mined up until the post World War II era. Many of the older people still have vivid memories of their harsh experiences in the 'frontier' mining town.

Although the infrastructure is not yet in place, the traditional landowners are already moving back onto outstations on their country, despite the adverse conditions of no permanent water or shelter.


McClaren Creek: ” the real heroes of Australia”

August 1992

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 25 August 1992 McLaren Creek Land Claim Lodged: 19 April 1985 Recommended for grant: 28 February 1990 Title handback: 12 May 1992 Area: approx 3,500 sq kms

The traditional landowners of McLaren Creek, including Warumungu, Alyawarre, Kaytetye and Warlpiri people, have been trying to get their country back since the early 1970s.

On 12 May, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Robert Tickner finally handed back title to the 3,500 sq km station south of Tennant Creek to members of the Mungkarta Aboriginal Land Trust.

"I'm happy tonight," said traditional owner and station manager, Murphy Jappanangka. "I've been doing the job here and waiting for a long time, for 15 years. Now we've got the title for Mclaren Creek." Non-Aboriginal settlement in the region began with the building of the overland telegraph line in the 1870s.

There was bitter fighting as Aboriginal people tried to defend their country as pastoralists arrived. Aboriginal people in the area were scattered in the late 1920's by the brutal Coniston massacres, when at least 31 Aboriginal men, women and children were killed in revenge for the death of a European prospector.

By the 1950s the Warumungu and Alyawarre had been forced onto the poorest land and the traditional owners were not allowed to live on their own country on McLaren Creek Station. In 1973, the first attempt to buy McLaren Creek Station and to get living areas on neighbouring Kurundi Station failed. Many of the traditional owners were living and working on Kurundi station under terrible conditions, with poor wages and little access to health and education services.

Finally, in 1977 the Warumungu stockmen on Kurundi took matters into their own hands and waled off the station to set up camp on vacant crown land at Ngurrutiji Rockhole water reserve. Their leaders, three brothers and a sister, became known as the "Ngurrutiji mob."

They first lodged a claim on the land at Ngurrutiji, only a small part of their traditional country, in 1978. When McLaren Creek Station was finally bought in 1985 the country was severely degraded and overrun with feral horses. But the purchase paved the way for a successful land claim under the Land Rights Act and the claim was heard in 1988.

The traditional owners have successfully combined traditional and European land management skills. Despite difficult times for the pastoral industry, the Mungkarta Pastoral Company has achieved stable financial and pastoral management through sheer courage and hard work. Faced with a struggle for survival on severely degraded land, they turned to the feral horses as the main source of income in early years.

At the title handback ceremony, Mr Tickner was shown secret ground drawings and designs representing traditional Aboriginal ownership of the country.

In a moving speech, Mr Tickner said that Aboriginal people who fight for their land "are the real heroes of Australia." "It's important that people understand what you're trying to do here by running a cattle station the Aboriginal way," Mr Tickner said.

"Keeping your culture, getting income for your community, getting skills and building a future. That's something to be very proud of." Sadly, only two of the leaders of the "Ngurrutiji mob" survived to see the title handover.

But Murphy Jappanangka is confident of the future. "We like this job. We like to do bore and cattle work and brumby horse. I know how to work the cattle station since I was a little kid," he said. "All these young fellas, I've been teaching them and now they are working and working.

"Sometimes I've got to growl, but these young fellas out there are doing a good job for me and when you're working like that you can grow the station up," said Murphy Jappanangka.


Wave Hill:  From Little things big things grow

December 1991

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 23 Dec 1991

Twenty five years ago it was regarded as just a minor new story - a few hundred Gurindku people walked off Wave Hill station in protest at the appalling living conditions and zero wages being paid by Vesteys, the giant British corporation which was then Australia's largest landowner. Now that event is recognised as the start of the Land Rights movement - a little thing that grew to something much bigger.

On 25 August, over 500 people gathered at Victoria River to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Walkoff and the victories it sparked. Victor Vincent, whose father led the Walkoff, told the crowd about the strength that led to Gurindji to freedom in their own land.

"My father couldn't read and write but he was really clever and he talked to the manager really strong," said Mr Vincent.

"He knew the tribal law and fought for the tribal law. "

He told the station manager: 'I think we need to work more good way and with more wages.' but the station just offered him tow dollars a week. "You know tow dollars? You can't buy clothes you can't buy anything. So he said 'No - I'm gone. I'm gonna take all the people and go. I'm finished with Wave Hill'."

In the years that followed, Victor's father became a national figure who travelled around Australia building support for the Gurindji struggle. He died in 1988 and, as a mark of respect and grief, his name is no longer spoken by the Gurindji. In 1966 many believed the Gurindji were fighting simply for improved living conditions and decent wages but eventually white Australians understood that the Gurindji wanted their traditional lands returned. The walkoff began a long and bitter struggle.

The Gurindji and their supporters were threatened with rifles and shotguns, and at one stage were near starvation. But despite enormous pressure from pastoralists and politicians they never returned to work at Wave Hill. Billy Bunter Jampijinpa was a young stockman when the strike began. "We were treated just like dogs," said Mr Bunter.

"We lived in tin humpies you had to crawl in and out of on your knees. There was no running water. The food was bad - just flour, tea, sugar and bits of beef like the head or feet of a bullock. "Victor's father came back from hospital in Darwin and he had decided that he would pull us out. He pulled everyone out that Tuesday and we walked with the kids and our swags to the Victoria River where we camped until Christmas.

"The Vesteys mob came and said they would get two killers (slaughtered cattle) and raise our wages if we came back. But old Victor's father said, 'No, we're stopping here.'

Then in early 1967 we walked to our new promised land, we call it Daguragu, back to our sacred places and our country, our new homeland." Many of the original leaders of the walkoff have now passed away, but Mick Rangiari was there at the beginning and remains a community leader today. he was there to lead the celebrations.

Now, says Mr Rangiari, the fight for land rights is led by the land councils, but in 1966 things were very different: "There was no legal aid, no welfare, no government that time - only the union was supporting us." Brian Manning became involved with the strike through writer and activist Frank hardy and Aboriginal union leader Dexter Daniels.

He lent his truck to deliver badly needed supplies. "I got involved in the issue as a unionist and saw the utmost solidarity of the Gurindji," said Mr Manning. "Twenty five years down the track they are as they were then. They're just as resolute about the things in their life that are important."

Frank Hardy told the celebration that the walkoff "was the most important thing I ever got involved in." "Sometimes I was quite afraid that people would come with guns to get them out, but they stayed there and finally they got the land. "Maybe they've still got problems and worries, but the Gurindji never yet struck a worry they couldn't beat or a problem they couldn't get round."

Hardy and Manning joined former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Robert Tickner, and Central Land Council delegates at the celebrations. The Gurindji first wrote to the Government asking for the return of their lands in 1967, but it was another 8 years before Gough Whitlam handed back leasehold title to the Gurindji.

"In August 1975," Mr Whitlam told the celebration, "I bent down and picked up the earth and I poured that earth into your leader's hand. "On behalf of all Australians I handed the earth, the soil, the land, back to the leader of the Gurindji people." On 10 April 1986 the Gurindji received a stronger title to their land following a successful claim under the Land Rights Act.

Gough Whitlam told the celebration that this law, which was drafted by his government and later amended and passed by the Fraser government, remains the strongest land rights legislation in Australia. Singer Paul Kelly joined the celebrations at Daguragu and sand From little things big things grow, a song which he wrote about the walkoff for his latest album.

Daguragu band Lipbangu followed with a set of their own songs about the strike and the victories of their people. Led by the children who now enjoy the hard won rights that their grandparents won, the Gurindji and their supporters then retraced part of their original walk in a re-enactment that they have observed since 1984.

As the sun set Gurindji men and women, and women from Lajamanu and Papunya danced and sang to celebrate the land that has been won back and the struggle that began it all. .

While a lot has been achieved by the Gurindji in the last 25 years the fight to control their own lives still continues. Like many other Aboriginal people, the Gurindji are keen to establish outstations where smaller family groups can live on their traditional country. Setting up a resource centre to service these outstations is a major priority.

Community plans for the Karu Bulungkarni (Child's Dreaming) Resource Centre have come up against bureaucratic obstacles caused by ATSIC boundaries and state/territory borders. the Gurindji are currently forced to rely on the Wulaign Resource Centre which is based 110 kilometres away at Lajamanu and which serves the region's Warlpiri communities. Roslyn Frith, who is Chairperson of the Victoria River ATSIC Regional Council, wants to see Karu Bulungkarni up and running.

"We're not separating ourselves from the Warlpiri but our community wants to control its own business and its won resource centre." Ms Frith said that the centre would serve communities around Daguragu, Mistake Creek and Pigeon Hole in the Northern Territory as well as communities across the Western Australian border.

"We've been fighting for six years to get this going but ATSIC officials keep making excuses," she said. "What I'd like to see is an Aboriginal person coordinating the centre with training and backup from ATSIC. "There is money there. Our voice has to be heard hard." Ms Frith said that senior men and women from the communities are expecting to meet with ATSIC officials soon to put their case for the centre.

1883 Wave Hill Station is taken up by the Buchanan family and cattle are brought in.

1888 A Police Station is established at Wave Hill. Mounted constable W.H. Wilshire begins reprisal killings against the Gurindji which continue until at least the 1920s. 1914 Vesteys buys Wave Hill and builds up the station with Aboriginal labour which they pay for with meagre rations.

23 August 1966 The Gurindji Walkoff Wave Hill Station.

April 1967 The Gurindji Petition the Governor General for the return of their traditional lands.

1967 More than 90 percent of Australians support a referendum to give the Commonwealth Government power over Aboriginal Affairs.

December 1972 The Gurindji are granted a living area of just 8 square miles.

16 August 1975 Gough Whitlam visits Dagaragu to handover a lease to 3236 square kilometres. 26 February 1979 CLC lodges a claim over the area on behalf of the traditional landowners.

October 1979 The NT Government notifies the Gurindji that the Government will resume the lease in 28 days but then does not proceed with its action.

15 July 1981 Hearing of the Dagaragu Land Claim begins.

18 November 1981 Land Commissioner Toohey delivers his report.

10 April 1986 The Gurindji are handed title to their land by the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Clyde Holding.

30 August 1991 Australian Aboriginal Affairs council meets in Alice Springs to discuss proposal for "New Federalism" under which the Commonwealth would back away from its responsibilities to Aboriginal people.

Speaking at Victoria River former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam outlined the political events that finally led the Australian government to recognise Aboriginal Land Rights.

He expressed his disappointment that so many Aboriginal people are still denied real land rights and his optimism that recent changes might provide an international forum for Aboriginal people to continue their fight. "Less than a year after your walkoff it became possible for the Australian Parliament to make laws for people of the Aboriginal race.

There's never been a referendum that had such an immense majority. ".By November 1975 my government had passed an Aboriginal Lands Act for the Northern Territory through the House of Representatives. There was a revolution by some of the big shots in Canberra, and another government came in.

It made amendments to that Act, and then it went through the House of Representatives and the Senate. That is the Act has been there since 1976. It's not perfect, but it's the best piece of Aboriginal land legislation in Australia. "The Federal Parliament cold pass such an Act for the whole of Australia now - but it hasn't. "But another thing has been done.

The present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Robert Tickner, in July, announced in Geneva that Australia was going to become a party to what is called the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

"It will be possible for anyone in Australia who believes that his civil and political rights, despite his own best endeavours have not been given to him Australia. That person or group can bring the matter to the attention of the Human Rights Committee which has representatives from all parts of the world. "

And it was very significant that this statement was made in Geneva on behalf of the Australian Government by Robert Tickner, because there can be no mistake anywhere in the world that the human rights in Australia which are most in jeopardy, most in question, are the rights of the Aboriginal people. "

And there have been some shameful delays in Aboriginal people getting their rights.

There have been those delays in Cape York, in the Torres Strait Islands, in the North West of Western Australia, in Perth itself. there have been delays of years. And now I believe it is possible in those cases of delay where the High Court itself has given rulings - and all the High Courts rulings have been in favour of Aborigines.

"It's now possible where Aborigines or groups of Aborigines or other Australians believe that they are not getting their rights under this international convention which is as old as your walkoff at Wattie Creek.

It was made in 1966, 25 years ago. The same year that the walkoff over land rights occurred at Wattie Creek. It's now possible to get the benefits of that covenant.

"There has over the years been case after case where the Northern Territory Government has tried to defeat the Land Rights legislation.

"It's lost every time. It has wasted millions of dollars, but the legislation is still the best in Australia and if the benefits are denied ever again or if they're still being denied - Aborigines will be able to go to an international forum and seek justice."



December 1991

Land Rights News Vol2 No23 Dec 1991 Arrernte, Luritja, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara traditional landowners gathered at the town of Finke to receive title to five small areas of land at the end of October.

The areas - Finke Stock Reserve, Bloodwood Bore, Charlotte Waters, Goyder Stock Reserve and Alice Well - are all former stock routes and reserves totalling about 150 square kilometres. Joker Doolan, a former CLC Executive member, is Chairman of the Apatula Land Trust, which holds four of the titles.

"It's very important that this land comes back," said Mr Doolan.

"I come up from Adelaide hospital for the handover on behalf of my family - for my grandchildren. People are happy to get that land back. All that time waiting. All those years - ever since I was a kid.

"I knew all the time that we would get it back sooner or later - while I'm still around."

It's more than 15 years since traditional landowners began formal efforts to win European title to their country. Unfortunately, despite years of negotiations with the NT Government and local pastoralists, the issue was not resolved until the September 1989 Memorandum of Agreement between the Prime Minister and the Northern Territory Chief Minister.

One aspect of that Agreement was a decision that certain stock routes and reserves should be "scheduled" as Aboriginal land in an amendment to the Land Rights Act, without the need to continue the long and arduous process of hearing before the Aboriginal land Commissioner. Alice Well was also "scheduled" as part of that process.

The area of around 13 square kilometres was part of the Southern Stock Route which runs through Maryvale Pastoral Lease. Traditional landowners for the area have been pushing to win title for their land since at least 1973 when they raised the issue with the Woodward Inquiry into Land Rights in the Northern Territory.

The traditional landowners continued their fight to win back this land and even when they were unable to live at Alice Well, they arranged to make regular trips to visit and maintain sacred sites.

The title is held by Inarnme Aboriginal Land Trust and the area is expected to provide a home for the traditional landowners.


Undoolya Bore, Ooratippra and Mt Peachy

May 1991

Land Rights News 1991

Claim lodged: 20 August 1980
Title date: 23 May 1991 Area: 85 sq km

Claim lodged: 22 April 1980
Title date: 23 May 1991
Area: 220 sq km

Claim lodged: 7 September 1981
Title date: 23 May 1991
Area: 14 sq km

Aboriginal Land Trust members from Undoolya Bore (10 km east of Alice Springs), Ooratippra (400 km north east of Alice Springs) and Mt Peachy (100 km south of Alice Springs) travelled to Tennant Creek to receive title to their land on the day of the Warumungu Part 1 handover. Senior Arrernte man Patrick Hayes accepted title to Undoolya Bore on behalf of the Melknge Aboriginal Land Trust.

The Hayes family have been living on this area since 1984 when, frustrated at being unable to obtain their traditional country through negotiations, they began squatting on the area with nothing more than a few tents.

The struggle for their land in those days was led by Mr Hayes father who unfortunately passed away without seeing the title to even this small part of his country handed back.

The title paper for Mt Peachy was accepted by Sid Kenny on behalf of his father Jack, who is chairman of the Mpwelarre Land Trust. Jack Kenny, an Arrernte man, who was born at Mr Burrell south of Mt Peachy, moved back out to his country in 1981. Unit 1988 he lived in a makeshift shed and carted water two kilometres from Walkabout Bore.

Jack's daughter Mary Ross said that her parents moved out to Mt Peachy to escape from living conditions in Alice Springs. "I don't think they would have survived in town somehow," she said. "They were that used to being out bush and then they came in. They tried living in town - mum was getting sick all the time and dad just felt like he was in the middle of everything. They wanted to get out.

"We've been waiting for it for lots and lots of years and it's really good to have it back and that it finally belongs to family." The Ooratippra Land Claim was lodged on behalf of Alyawarre people in 1980. The traditional owners were dispersed from the area by conflicts with hostile pastoralists in the 1920s and 1930s.

They were forced to move hundreds of kilometres east to Lake Nash and even Camooweal in Queensland. The title to this area was accepted by Roy Rusty, the Chairman of Irrmane Aboriginal Land Trust and his son Stuart, a member of the CLC Executive. The traditional owners plan to fence the area which will provide a living area for about fifty people.


Wakaya Alywarre

February 1990

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 17 Feb 1990

Jack Punch and his family received Northern Territory title to about 5,000 square kilometres of their traditional land in the desert east of Tennant Creek in December.

On the eve of the Wakaya/Alyawarre land claim hearing early last year, the NT Government offered the claimants grants of NT title if they dropped their claim under the Federal Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

Eight of the nine claimant groups rejected the offer, preferring to proceed with the claim in the hope of gaining the much stronger Aboriginal freehold title. NT title does not give landowners control over mining and development projects or control over access to their land.

The Director of the Central Land Council, David Ross, criticised the NT Government for its last minute bid to prevent the land claim proceeding.

"The Wakaya/Alyawarre land claim was lodged in 1980," he said, "Since then thousands of dollars have been spent researching and preparing the claim.

If the Government was sincere about providing land to Wakaya and Alyawarre groups, it would have made the offer before all the money was spent. "The NT Government's record in opposing land rights is well known."


Mt Allen - NT withdraws action

February 1990

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 17 Feb 1990

The Northern Territory Government has withdrawn legal action over the granting to traditional owners of Mount Allan station and agreed to pay the Central Land Council's legal costs. The injunction restraining the Registrar-General from registering the deed will now be lifted.

The Government had appealed to the full bench of the Federal Court after a Federal Court judge dismissed its application to have a number of inter-station tracks declared public roads and excised from the land grant.

In October 1988, senior traditional owner Frankie Japanangka received the title deeds to Mount Allan on behalf of the Yalpirakinu Aboriginal Land Trust. The grant had been delayed for more than three years by NT Government legal action following the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs June 1985 announcement that he had accepted the recommendations of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.

But within days of Mt Allan becoming Aboriginal land, the NT Government slapped an injunction on the Registrar-General preventing the deed being registered.

This month's backdown followed a meeting between the traditional owners and neighbouring pastoralists at which pastoralists were assured that there would be no problems with their future access to station tracks they had previously used.

While this had always been the position of the land council and the traditional owners, the NT Government, in its litigious pursuit of denying Aboriginal land rights, sought to have the tracks excised from the land trust area.

The Government agreed to pay more than $36,000 in legal costs to the land council. The total cost to the Northern Territory taxpayer is estimated to be approximately $100,000 - all over a handful of inter-station dirt tracks that the neighbouring pastoralists themselves were not concerned about.



NT Challenge on Mt Allen defeated

May 1989

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 14 May 1989 Aboriginal traditional owners of Mt Allan station have had another court victory against the NT Government. Earlier this month the Federal Court dismissed an application by the NT Attorney General to have the Mt Allan land grant declared invalid.

The NT was ordered to pay the costs. Title to Mt Allan station, 240 kilometres north west of Alice Springs, was handed to the Warlpiri and Anmatyerre traditional owners last October, nine years after the claim was lodged (see LRN November 1988).

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs announced in June 1985 that he intended to follow the Aboriginal Land Commissioner recommendations and grant title to the traditional owners.

But the handover was delayed for over two years because of NT Government litigation over a stock route and stock reserve within Mt Allan station.

The Government lost that litigation which was finalised in September 1988. At issue in the latest case were ten dirt tracks that cross Mt Allan station.

The NT argued they are "public roads" and so not open to claim under the Land Rights Act.

The status of five of the tracks was argued extensively before the Land Commissioner during the land claim hearing. In his report, Mr Justice Kearney, ruled that the tracks were not public roads and should be included in the grant. Curiously, the NT did not challenge the Aboriginal Land Commissioner's decision at the time. But over three years later, having lost the stock route case, they revived their argument.

This time it wasn't just the five tracks that they had unsuccessfully argued were public roads during the land claim hearing, but a further five tracks were added to the list.

After a four day hearing, Justice Lockhart rejected the NT's application saying he was not satisfied that any of the roads had been dedicated to the public. Justice Lockhart also rejected the NT's allegation that it had been denied an adequate opportunity to make submissions concerning the grant of the stock route and reserve.


Mt Allen Millions wasted in claim appeals

May 1989

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 14 May 1989

The Director of the Central Land Council has challenged the NT Government to open the books and reveal how much money it has spent fighting land claim decisions in court.

"I estimate more than $5 million dollars has been spent running to court trying to stop the return of land to Aboriginal people - and they haven't won yet," Mr Pat Dodson said.

Mr Dodson's challenge follows this month's Federal Court decision concerning Mt Allan station. Justice Lockhart dismissed the Territory's application and ordered the NT to pay costs.

"The Mt Allan case involved five barristers, including two QC's, spending four days in a Sydney court. Legal fees alone would be $40,000.

Then there's the cost of flying witnesses down from Mt Allan and Darwin and of course all the preparatory work," Mr Dodson said.

"All that in a failed attempt to have ten dirt tracks declared public roads and cut out of the land grant. "The Mt Allan case is only the latest, and compared with the litigation costs involved in the Kenbi and Warumungu land claims, it's chickenfeed.

"Ever since the Land Rights Act came into force the NT Government has shamelessly fought tooth and nail trying to deny Aboriginal people land rights. "Everyone has a right to their day in court, but the NT's rabid activity is bordering on the absurd.

"They've raced off to court thirty times against Aboriginal people and are yet to win a case. "Obviously the Government's political motivation is clouding their assessment of the legal issues, but of greater concern is the extravagant waste of public money.

"I challenge the NT Attorney General to reveal to taxpayers the full cost of the Government's continuing litigation."


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.


Chilla Well Victory to traditional owners

September 1988

Land Rights News Vol2 No10 Sep 1988. The Federal Court has dismissed an appeal by the Northern Territory Government against a land grant to the traditional owners of Chilla Well area. The Government had submitted that there was a public road on the claim area, which is about 400 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

The "public road" is a graded dirt track, which was made especially to take a water drill to an outstation at Mt Theo. Less than 10 kilometres of the track fell within the claim area. Roads "over which the public have a right of way" are not claimable under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. Justice Wilcox dismissed the appeal on 3 August, finding that the appeal grounds were "inappropriate."

The Director of the Central Land Council, Pat Dodson, cited the case as the latest in a long line of failed Northern Territory appeals against land claims "on the flimsiest of grounds."

Mr Dodson pointed out that the Territory Government had never won outright an appeal in a case within the Central Land Council area. "The Territory Government is flexing whatever muscle it has to deny justice to Aboriginal people through what can only be seen as an abuse of the judicial process," he said.

The Government was gaining a reputation as a vexatious litigant, and should modify its approach to co-operate with Aboriginal organisations. In a responding statement, the Northern Territory Attorney General, Mr Manzie, said that the Central Land Council itself had lodged appeals in land claim cases, and that the Government supported "the concept" of land rights.

Mr Dodson pointed out that the Attorney General had failed to explain its almost compulsive habit of appealing on flimsy grounds. "He must realise that the Central Land Council acts on behalf of Aboriginal people and has an obligation to legitimately pursue their claims and aspirations for their land." "The Territory Government claims to represent the interest of all Territorians, but conveniently forgets about its Aboriginal constituency.

It really represents the powerful interests of pastoralists and business," Mr Dodson said.


Warlpiri, Kukatja and Ngarti Land Claim

March 1987

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 2, March 1987

Claim lodged: 21 August 1980
Title dated: 23 August 1985
Area of claim: 2,340 sq km
Number of claimants: 90
The Warlpiri, Kakatja and Ngarti Land Claim was the 11th traditional land claim presented on behalf of Aboriginal traditional owners by the Central Land Council, under the Aboriginal land Rights (NT) Act. In all land claims the presentation of case before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner is the outcome of a long process of research and consultation with the Aboriginal traditional owners concerned.

The claim was presented to Justice Sir William Kearney at the Balgo Hills Mission and final addressed took place in Alice Springs.

It was the first time a hearing for a traditional land claim had taken place in Western Australia and the Mission made every effort to facilitate the conduct of the hearing.

The claim was to an area of approximately 2,000 square kilometres, bounded on the north by the southern boundary of the Mongrel Downs pastoral lease, on the east by a line extending south from the station's eastern border, on the west by the Western Australia border and on the south by the Warlpiri Land Trust area.

Traditional Aboriginal title in fact exceeds this rectangle of land, which lies within a larger Aboriginal estate extending far into the Mongrel Downs pastoral lease.

Because of the small area involved and the artificial nature of the claim boundaries, and because of its setting in a frequently harsh environment, evidence was heard from but one local descent group of claimants.

This group is defined by a limited set of ancestors and its members refer to themselves as one family, the 'Mongrel Downs mob' or the people from Munkururrpa.

Linguistically, the tradition owners describe the claim area as "mix-up" as it borders on areas in which Ngarti, Warlpiri, and Kukatja each have primacy as the language of daily life.

This linguistic diversity has obviously been influenced by current residence in communities at Balgo and Lajamanu, but has also resulted from marriage proscribed with persons from within one's own country, leading to bilingual alliances and multiple residence preceding the relocation to settlements. Dreaming The evidence of the claimants indicated that the major dreaming for their country is the Wirntiki (stone curlew) dreaming.

It is through this dreaming that they have common spiritual affiliation to sacred sites on the claim area.

The public nature of the claim inhibited some discussions about sacred material and decisions were made about the level of information to be imparted during the hearing and whether or note to display sacred objects.

However, the Land Commissioner had the privilege of having songs about the Wirntiki sung to him by the claimants on their own country, and its ceremonial importance demonstrated through the performance eof a dance for one of the Wirntiki sites.

At the specific request of the claimants further details of the Wirntiki dreaming were provided at a restricted hearing on the claim area.

The strength of attachment of traditional owners to their country obviously continues unabated despite their unfortunate history dispersal.

The advantages and benefits accruing from the grant of this land are impossible for Europeans to qualify but success in this claim now means security and autonomy for some 150 people, as they finally have control over the country where their ancestors lived and died.


Mt Barkly Land Claim

March 1987

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 2 March 1987 Claim lodged: 12 July 1981 Title dated: 24.07.85 Area of claim: 2,590 sq km No. of claimants: 352

The Mt Barkly claim was the first time in the history of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (1976) that Aboriginal people had laid claim to a pastoral lease which they had purchased themselves.

Mt Barkly is 360 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, covering an area of 2,589.98 square kilometres and borders Willowra Station. (Freehold title to Willowra was recently handed over by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs following a successful claim to the land by the Lander Warlpiri/Anmatjirra traditional owners in 1980).

The area covered by the lease is of great religious significance and economic importance to the people of Mt Barkly and Willowra, and to their relatives in the neighbouring communities of Ti-Tree, Anningie, Mount Allan, Yuendumu, Ali-Curung, and Lajamanu.

The people from these communities regularly perform ceremonies connected with sites at Mt Barkly.

It is land which they have traditionally owned for thousands of years - land which during the last 60 years was stolen from them and upon which artificial boundaries were placed. White pastoralists then ran cattle over the country and exploited Aboriginal labour to build stations.

It has been a long-standing concern of the people to re-acquire the property and obtain security of title under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act so that their children and their children's children can live there as they wish. MASSACRE In 1928 conflict over the use of land and water between whites and Aboriginals culminated in what is known today as the "Coniston Massacre" - a tragic event which caused the death of many relations of the Mt Barkly claimants.

After the massacres many of the survivors fled the area, and did not return for many years. A small group of people found refuge in the outlying areas of Mt Barkly and Willowra. More whitemen were to settle the Mt Barkly area as pastoralists, and the traditional owners were employed as stockmen, contributing to the establishment of the station.

The Mt Barkly lease was purchased by the Aboriginal-owned Willowra Pastoral Company early in 1981 with its own resources, and without assistance from any Government organisation.

A feasibility study by the Aboriginal Development Commission found that Mt Barkly had marginal viability as a cattle property, and that any cattle operations should be developed and operated as a single enterprise with Willowra station.

While it is planned to run cattle there, the principal motivation in acquiring the property was to enable the traditional owners to have free access to their country for hunting, gathering, site maintenance and other economic, social and religious activities which are essential to their life.

Warlpiri land ownership is fundamentally a religious relationship between people and land. It is these religious links that give certain rights, such as the use of the economic resources of the area, and certain responsibilities, such as looking after the country through performing ritual.

During the claim, the Northern Territory Government did not challenge the people's traditional ownership of Mt Barkly. Taking the evidence of the male traditional owners began by visiting a site with the Land Commissioner.

Female traditional owners then performed ceremonies for Pawu (Mt Barkly) and Ngarnka (Mt Leichhardt). For two days at Willowra the claimants told of their deep spiritual relationships to the land.

They talked of the dreamings for the countries of Pawu, Patirlirri, Ngarnka, Ngarnalkurra and Yarruku.

The people at Willowra (and other places where the traditional owners of Mt Barkly reside) have maintained a cultural continuity in the discharging of their responsibilities to land in and around Mt Barkly.


Daguragu station land claim

November 1986

Vol2 No1 November 1986 Claim lodged: 1979 Title dated: 29 May, 1986 Area of claim: 3279 sq km Number of claimants: 170 The courageous actions of the Gurindji, and their demand for Land Rights took the realities of decades of oppression and colonial injustice into the sitting rooms of urban Australia.

Many heard and saw on television for the first time, Aboriginal people telling the story of their exploitation and oppression by the pastoral industry.

When the stockmen of Wave Hill Station "walked off" the job in 1966, and refused to be bribed back until they got justice through Land Rights, even politicians were forced to listen.

The cruel indifference of generations of non-Aboriginal Australians was shattered. Aboriginal activists from around Australia kept the momentum going, erecting an Aboriginal tent embassy on the lawns outside the National Parliament.

The Australian Labor Party - under the leadership of Gough Whitlam - and the trade union movement, responded and Land Rights became a central part of the Whitlam drive to wrest Government from the Liberal/Country Coalition for the first time in twenty three years.

In 1974 Prime Minister Whitlam, handed the Gurindji as lease to part of the vast Wave Hill property operated by Vesteys - a British-based multinational company. As Gurindji elder, Vincent Lingiari said at the time: "They took our country away from us, now they have brought it back to us ceremonially."

It was a great and symbolic day for Aboriginal people and their supporters around Australia, but to the Gurindji it was only a vital first step.

This was echoed by Gough Whitlam when he said that the lease ceremony was "a token that these lands will be in the possession of you and your children for ever." The Gurindji wanted perpetual title, under the foreshadowed Land Rights Act.

They feared that without that, Governments could take away their lease. This fear was realised in 1979 when the NT Government gave notice that they surrender the title. In May 1986, twenty years after the walk-off, the final demand for Justice by the Gurindji was met, and the Hawke Labor government's Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Clyde Holding at last handed over the "inalienable" Aboriginal freehold title deeds to the Gurindji.

But sadly this final achievement, was marred by another threat to the desire of the Gurindji for control over their lives and land. The Gurindji are deeply worried about the presence of the Northern Territory Government-sponsored town of Kalkaringi which is in the middle of their lease, and they pleaded with Clyde Holding to help them.

They fear they will become fringe dwellers on their own land. Most of all, they want the school moved into their community, onto Aboriginal land. Their pleas fell on deaf ears.

The Minister was more concerned about performing for the government video cameras and the other media he had invited from Canberra and Darwin. And there were other anxieties. The Gurindji were aware that at the time of the handover, the Hawke Government was moving to put an end to provision in the Land Rights Act for the conversion of pastoral leases to Aboriginal inalienable freehold title.

And worse, were plans being considered to allow the Northern Territory Government to repeat the outrage of Kalkaringi, by giving it the power to acquire portions of Aboriginal land for any 'public' purpose.

Fortunately these damaging changes to the Act have been deleted but at the time of the Gurindji title hand-over Mr Holding was adamantly defending them.



Uluru Kata Tjuta land Claim

October 1985

Land Rights News Vol2 No1 Nov 1985

Claim lodged - 1978
Title dated - 26 October, 1985
Area of land granted - 1325 sq km
Number of claimants - 197
In November 1983 the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke announced that Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park would be returned to its traditional owners.

This was a claim that the Land Commissioner could not recommend for grant because the land had already been alienated as a national park.

The Prime Minister's intervention changed that.

The land would become Aboriginal land (inalienable freehold) on the condition that it was leased back to the Commonwealth as a National Park. A joint-management scheme was proposed so that the continued use of the park as a tourist venue was assured. An Aboriginal majority on this board was negotiated, and assured.

The announcement succeeded a previous undertaking by the NT Chief Minister, Paul Everingham in 1982 when he foreshadowed the Territory Government's intention to grant title to the area.

The traditional owners preferred the option of title under the Land Rights law which is a stronger title than any proposed by the NT Government. The Federal Labour Government's announcement led the Everingham Government to use Uluru and its traditional owners as political footballs in the Territory tradition of Canberra bashing.

This insensitivity and abuse of Aboriginal Territorians has characterised conflicts about Australia's most famous 'Rock'. This abuse is mirrored in the history of the area.

The Land Commissioner, Justice Toohey, commented in his report. "The history of black and white contact from the 1870's onwards is like that of many other parts of this country. There is evidence of cattle killing by Aboriginals and some attacks on whites with a consequent over-reaction by police and pastoralists."

For instance: "In 1934, while investigating the death of a young Aboriginal man near Atila (Mt Conner), the police arrested several men who later escaped and made their way to Ulura. There they hid at Mutitjulu but were found. One, a brother of Paddy Uluru tried to escape and was shot.

The death is still in people's minds." "I have no doubt that the conflict (between black and white) that did exist, in particular the punitive expeditions, caused people to move away from actual or potential trouble."


Handback at Piccaninny Bore

May 1980

WESTERN DESERT LAND CLAIM Claim Lodged: May 1980 Title Handback: 25 October 1991 Area: 3682 sq km

"We've got two titles," said Yingualyalya Aboriginal Land Trust Chairman Mick Inverway Jungarrayl. "White man's title and Aboriginal title." Mr Inverway was speaking at Piccaninny Bore, 600 kilometres north west of Alice Springs, following the handback to traditional landowners of two areas of land near the Northern Territory-Western Australian border by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Robert Tickner.

"I'm very pleased to see the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs coming from Alice Springs and a long way," said Mr Inverway. "Coming here to Piccaninny Bore ad he handed over that title. that's very good! We got the land back. We'll be able to look after that place."

The original claim over the area was lodged by the Central Land Council on behalf of the Gurindji, Nyininy and Warlpiri traditional landowners in 1980. The two areas returned cover 3,682 square kilometres. Popeye Jangala, the Chairman of the Mount Frederick Aboriginal Land Trust, said he was glad to win non-Aboriginal title to his traditional country. "I've been walking all over this country - Wave Hill way, Lajamanu way, Balgo way - a big country. I'm going to stop here now. I'll stay here. This one."

The area was first visited by non-Aboriginal people in 1856, when explorer A.C. Gregory earmarked it for cattle grazing.

More permanent non-Aboriginal occupation grew out of prospecting in the early 1900s, sparking killings between Aboriginal people and miners. Central Land Council Director David Ross said that the return of the land is a measure of the strength of the traditional landowners bond with their country.

"Despite the harshness of this desert country and the brutal history of their contact with non-Aboriginal people over the last 120 years, the traditional landowners have kept their culture strong."