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The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
12 June 2006
Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, today congratulated Aboriginal leader Barbara Tjikatu on receiving one of Australia's highest awards: the Order of Australia.
"Barbara Tjikatu is one of the principal figures in the history and development of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and I'm delighted that the nation has recognised her enormous contribution to her people and to the park," Mr Hunt said.
"Mrs Tjikatu, a senior Anangu woman, played a key role in the campaign for land rights and the handing back of Uluru to traditional owners in the 1980s. She helped established the joint management arrangements for Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park and has been a tireless Board member almost continuously since 1986."
Barbara Tjikatu was born in the Western Desert, part of a nomadic family for whom there are no records of date of birth. It is estimated that she was born in the late 1920s, making her now more than 80 years old.
Barbara remembers walking from place to place in the desert region around Uluru, visiting her grandmother's country and her grandfather's country, and hunting and gathering on the land. She recalls working on properties in the days when Anangu were given only rations for their labour.
In the early 1970s Barbara and her husband Nipper (now deceased) returned to Uluru to engage more regularly in traditional ceremony.
"Since handback in 1985, Barbara has been involved in almost every aspect of park work, from manual labour, to establishing three park businesses and the Cultural Centre, through to face to face discussions with Australian Government and Northern Territory Ministers," Mr Hunt said.
"A formidable tracker, her skills were exemplified by her tracking of the infamous dingo in the Azaria Chamberlain case in the 1970s. She still employs these skills in helping to monitor the status of wildlife and feral animals in the park.
"Barbara is an invaluable advisor to scientific staff and still continues to coach and train Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff in the park.
"She has shown extraordinary commitment to the protection of Aboriginal culture and to passing it on to the younger generations, particularly young women. She is known for her generosity in explaining to park staff, tour guides and park visitors the cultural heritage that is central to Aboriginal life in the desert.
"Barbara Tjikatu is an amazing woman, leading by example and worthy of the honour of the Order of Australia."
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's office) 0415 740 722