West MacDonnells National Park handed back to its traditional owners
Traditional owners receiving the deeds for the West MacDonnell National Park
The handback of the West MacDonnell National Park to its Aboriginal traditional owners is an extremely significant chapter in the history of land rights in the Northern Territory and will ensure its status as a tourism icon and help preserve its outstanding natural and cultural values.
The Park is a vibrant site of Aboriginal cultural activity, criss-crossed with many dreamings that extend far beyond its boundaries and represent the travels and actions of the ancestral beings of the Park’s traditional owners.
The traditional owners – mostly Western and Central Arrernte speakers- still hunt and gather bush tucker and carry out ceremonies within its boundaries and many live close by in Hermannsburg, Alice Springs, Wallace Rockhole, Iwuputaka, Santa Teresa and Papunya.
The West MacDonnell National Park covers an area of 2528 square kilometres and shares its northern boundary with several pastoral leases - Bond Springs, Hamilton Downs, Narwietooma and Glen Helen.
The Park shares its southern boundary with the Aboriginal land trusts of Iwupataka, Roulpmaulpma, Rodna, Ltalaltuma and Haasts Bluff. The nearest settlements include Alice Springs and Hermannsburg.
Under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, parks were unable to be claimed but in August 2002, a decision of the High Court resulted in legal uncertainty about the validity of the declarations of many of the Northern Territory’s national parks, thus raising the possibility of successful land and native title claims over them.
The NT Government sensibly decided to settle the outstanding claims on these areas and thus avoided decades of expensive court cases.
The West MacDonnell National Park includes portions of the Chewings, Heavitree and
MacDonnell Ranges and extends approximately 175 kilometres westwards from the Alice Springs
The Aboriginal freehold land will be held by the Tyurretye Aboriginal Land Trust in accordance with the Commonwealth Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.
It will be immediately leased to the NT Government to be operated as a Park under joint management . Public access and use of the area will not be affected.