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."