Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (August 2012)

Published: August, 2012

Four handbacks to benefit Aboriginal traditional land owners

The federal Indigenous Affairs minister celebrated with traditional owners as four parcels of land were handed back.

Size didn’t matter to the handful of Warlpiri and Anmatyerr traditional owners who travelled several hundred kilometres to a ceremony recently at Simpsons Gap near Alice Springs.

While other traditional owners at the ceremony were being handed back a national park and two pastoral stations, they were happy to get just 26 hectares of country at Crown Hill between  Mt Denison and Consiton.

Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin handed back four areas of land to traditional landowners. The other areas were the West MacDonnell National Park and pastoral properties Alcoota and Loves Creek , to the east of Alice Springs

The land claims were lodged by the CLC before  the ‘sunset clause’ came into effect in 1997 which prevented  any further claims to be made under the Land Rights Act.

CLC Chairman Phillip Wilyuka said land handbacks were always the happiest days for Aboriginal people.

“I congratulate the traditional owners of all these areas because I know that their land is very special to their hearts and many of them have fought for years to have that ownership acknowledged,” Mr Wilyuka said.

“We thank the Government and the Minister for recognising the  importance of this to our people today with these handbacks.”

The successful claim to the Western MacDonnell National Park is the result of a native title case in 2002 which raised legal uncertainty about the status  of many of the Territory’s national parks, and raised the possibility of successful land and native title claims over them. The NT Government sensibly decided to settle the matter rather than be tied up in the legal system for years to come.

The Tyurretye Aboriginal Land Trust immediately leased the park back to the NT Government to be joint-managed with its mainly Central and Western Arrernte traditional owners. The park’s daily operation will not change.

The handback of Alcoota to its traditional owners ended one of the Northern Territory’s longest and most litigated land claims. It is estimated it cost the Northern Territory taxpayers more than $2 million in legal costs when the NT Government fought the claim and the  case was eventually thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2002.

The land claim hearing was finally completed in 2004 and it was recommended for grant in 2007. The Alkwert   Aboriginal Land Trust accepted  the Deed of Grant for Alcoota.

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

One of the centre’s oldest cattle stations, Loves Creek Station was established in 1896 and  has been used to run cattle for more than 100 years.

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

The claim covers 3760 square kilometers and more than 2000 cattle are currently agisted on it by the G&C Pastoral Company. This arrangement will be formalised with a lease after the handback .  

The Arletherre Aboriginal Land Trust accepted  the Deed of Grant for Loves Creek and the Aboriginal Land Trust accepted  the Deed of Grant for Crown Hill