Four handbacks to benefit Aboriginal traditional land owners

Posted: Wed, July 18, 2012

Four areas of land were handed back to Aboriginal traditional landowners today at a ceremony at Simpsons Gap near Alice Springs by the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

. All of these areas of land are returned under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

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

The areas of land include Central Australian tourist attraction the West MacDonnell National Park, a small parcel of land called Crown Hill between Mt Denison and Mt Allan, and pastoral properties Alcoota and Loves Creek , to the east of Alice Springs. 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.

“Now this has happened it allows people to move forward because even though they knew they were the traditional owners of their country, they felt it needed to be acknowledged by non-Aboriginal law. It has removed a barrier for them, it has removed a sense of injustice.” “We thank the Government and the Minister for recognising the importance of this to our people today with these handbacks,” he said.

“For the Western MacDonnell National Park it means it will now be run under joint management with the traditional owners which will only enhance its many attractions ,” Mr Wilyuka said 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 validity of the declarations 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 will immediately lease the park back to the NT Government to be run in a joint management arrangement with its mainly Central and Western Arrernte traditional owners.

The park’s daily operation will not change except that it will be enhanced by the participation of its traditional owners in its management The handback of Alcoota to its traditional owners brings to an end one of the Northern Territory’s longest and most litigated land claims. It is estimated that 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 (al-kert) Aboriginal Land Trust will accept the Deed of Grant for Alcoota. One of Central Australia’s oldest pastoral leases is also about to be handed back to its Aboriginal traditional owners. Loves Creek, 60 kilometers east of Alice Springs, at the eastern end of the MacDonnell Ranges, will become inalienable Aboriginal freehold land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

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 still work 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 (ul-luth-ara) Aboriginal Land Trust will accept the Deed of Grant for Loves Creek and the Irrinjirrinjirri (irin-jirin-jiri) Aboriginal Land Trust wil accept the Deed of Grant for Crown Hill