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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

26 July 1999

RED CENTRE INDIGENOUS LAND HANDOVER


Two cattle stations in Australia's red centre with areas of great spiritual and cultural significance will be returned to traditional owners at a ceremony in Tempe Downs (NT), today.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, representing the Commonwealth Government, said the return of the Tempe Downs Station and Middleton Ponds/Luritja Indigenous land was an integral part of the reconciliation process.

"The Urrampinyi, Wirra, Manyari and Wilpiya peoples have an age-old spiritual, cultural and physical connection to this land, so it is particularly rewarding to see them resume direct control and responsibility for their traditional lands and sacred sites," Dr Stone said.

"This connection is as strong today as it was generations ago, with tribal elders handing on to each new generation unique knowledge of ceremonial activities, stories and language."

Dr Stone said a grant of land was the highest recognition within Australian society of the value of indigenous traditional rights and places of cultural significance.

"Today, we recognise through modern symbolism what the traditional owners have known in their hearts for thousands of years, that the land is central to their well-being and cultural integrity."

The land, some 450,00 hectares, is located 200 kms south-west of Alice Springs adjacent to Watarraka National Park.

Following a recommendation by Senator the Hon John Herron, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, executed a deed granting estate in fee simple to the Urrampinyi Iltjiltjarri Aboriginal Land Trust in accordance with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act on 29 June 1999.

Some 400 traditional Aboriginal owners will share in the return of the pastoral lands, which is expected to continue to be used primarily for cattle grazing.

The region is also noted for its exceptional biological significance and diversity. There has been little fire damage for several hundred years; there is an abundance of rare and uncommon plant species and the Illara Waterhole is one of only two permanent water bodies in central Australia.

"On behalf of the Commonwealth Government I want to wish the Urrampinyi Iltiltjarri Aboriginal Land Trust and all the traditional owners well in their continuing stewardship of this remarkable country," Dr Stone said.

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia