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.