Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Hand back of four parcels of land to traditional owners in Central Australia

Location: Alice Springs


Thank you Joel [Liddle, MC for the event].

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

I acknowledge the elders who are with us here today, and the traditional owners and others who have travelled here for this special celebration.

I also want to acknowledge:

  • From the Central Lands Council,
  • Chairman Philip Wilyuka,
  • Deputy Chairman Michael Liddle, and
  • Director David Ross.
  • Karl Hampton, NT Minister for Central Australia,
  • And my friend and colleague in the federal parliament, Warren Snowden, Minister for Indigenous Health and the Member for Lingiari.


It is a pleasure and an honour to be with you today.

To mark this historic occasion for the Arrernte, Anmatyerre, Warlpiri and Alyawarr people and for all traditional owners of Central Australia.

To recognise, in law, the truth we know in practice — that these are your traditional lands, to which you have a deep and abiding connection.

To recognise, in law, that you are the traditional owners.

The land on which we meet today — at Simpson’s Gap in the West MacDonnell National Park — is one such site, to be returned today to its traditional owners.

It has particular significance, as the last in a series of the Territory’s National Parks to be returned to its traditional custodians – you havehave held this land in your hearts for thousands of years.

It is your hearts we celebrate today.

The hearts of the Arrernte people, the Anmatyerre people, the Warlpiri and the Alyawarr people.

The heart of the people of Central Australia, and their representatives in the Central Lands Council, who have argued and fought for many years now for this truth to be acknowledged.

For the truth to be placed back in your hands, as a deed of title.

And we honour your hard work, which has returned your lands into the hands of your people.

Today, we return to the hands of traditional owners:

  • The West MacDonnell Land Claim to the Tyurretye Aboriginal Land Trust
  • The Crown Hill Land Claim to the Irrinjirrinjirri Aboriginal Land Trust
  • The Alcoota Land Claim to the Alkwert Aboriginal Land Trust
  • The Loves Creek Land Claim to the Arletherre Aboriginal Land Trust.

Today, half of the Northern Territory is Aboriginal land.

The West MacDonnell Land Claim No. 205

I stand today on Arrernte country and to hand back to the Arrernte people more than 2,500 square kilometres of land that forms part of your traditional estates.

The West MacDonnell Land Claim encompassed the whole of the West MacDonnell National Park – one of the Northern Territory’s premier tourist attractions.

The Larapinta Trail offers 223 kilometres of some of the most breathtaking views of Central Australia.

The West Macs are known around the country and around the world for their cultural, historic and biodiversity value.

They are home to a diverse range of plant life of global significance and are a stronghold for rare and threatened animals like the black-footed rock wallaby and the critically endangered central rock-rat.

As the largest national park in Central Australia, it is rich with archaeological sites, art sites and sacred sites.

Evidence of custodianship.

And through its great beauties, through its facts and artefacts, are woven the stories told by the songs and traditions that link the Arrernte with this land.

The dreamings that follow the ridges of the ranges.

Today, we recognise this as fact.

We forge a path to the future, where the traditional owners will work with the Northern Territory Government to jointly manage this park.

The park will be leased to the Northern Territory Government for 99 years and will continue to operate as a national park for all to enjoy.

It will create employment opportunities for many Aboriginalpeople to work on country and share with visitors not only the natural wonder of this place, but the importance of this land to its traditional owners.

It gives me great pleasure to present to the TyurretyeAboriginal Land Trust the deed of grant to the West MacDonnell National Park.

The Alcoota Land Claim No. 146

Today, we recognise also the Alyawarr and the Anmatyerre peoples as the traditional owners of the land contained within the Alcoota Land Claim.

The Land claim covers 2,972 square kilometres north-east of Alice Springs and represents the whole of the Alcoota Pastoral lease.

There is a rich, continuous history here for the Alyawarr and Anmatyerre peoples.

It’s also symbolic of the struggle and the endeavour of the traditional owners to keep a firm hold of their connection to their land — and of their determination to ensure these lands are a foundation for their futures.

In 1993, the Australian Government supported the purchase of the Alcoota pastoral lease.

The funding grant provided legal and practical protection to the cultural heritage represented by this tract.

It also provided a foundation for a people, for economic development and for opportunity.

Alcoota continues to be a working pastoral property, providing employment opportunities for traditional Aboriginal owners to work and live on a part of their ancestral estate.

For nearly 20 years, Aboriginal people have been working this land.

For neary 20 years, the Alyawarr and Anmatyerre people have been working their way through the claims process to have their connection to this land recognised.

Today, I am very pleased to hand back to the Alkwert (al-kert) Aboriginal Land Trust the deed of grant to your ancestral land.

The Loves Creek Land Claim No. 143

Loves Creek is the name given to a land which has witnessed much.

It’s an area claimed by settlers.

It’s an area claimed by miners, who sought the riches of gold and rubies buried deep within its core.

Today, we recognise, finally and formally, that it is an area owned by the people who have always owned it, the Arrernte people.

3,784 square kilometres that includes very scenic and rugged sections of the East MacDonnell Ranges.

More than 3,000 square kilometres that has been hard fought for.

Through the mines.

Through the years of stockmen and water drawers.

Through the displacement of people to the mission of Saint Teresa, to Amoonguna and to camps outside of Harts Range and Alice Springs.

And which today, we recognise has been hard won.

Many have suffered in the contest for this land, rich in gold as it is in dreamings.

And today we recognise that contest, and those who have suffered in its name.

We recognise as well, that the future is built on what we share.

Even today, people are keen to try their luck at finding an elusive gemstone or a piece of gold in this region.

And in recognition also of this conflict, of this shared history, the Arrernte traditional owners of Loves Creek have agreed to retain an area of the land handed back to be used by the public for fossicking.

It’s an act of grace, born from the respect of rightful recognition.

I am very pleased to hand back to the Arletherre Aboriginal Land Trust the deed of grant to your ancestral land.

The Crown Hill Land Claim No. 106

Irrinjirrinjirri is monumental in significance if not in size.

To the Anmatyerre and the Warlpiri peoples of this region, this 26 hectare site forms a vital link, between people and place.

It completes a circle, recognising relationship of land to land and land to people, with the former Mount Allen Station near Yuelamu, which was granted as Aboriginal land in 1988, and its people, the Anmatyerre and the Warlpiri peoples.

I present to the Irrinjirrinjirri Aboriginal Land Trust the deed of grant to your ancestral land.


Today is a step toward the future for the Arrernte, Anmatyerre, Warlpiri and Alyawarr traditional owners and their families.

A future which recognises the past, steeped in the history of generations and thousands of years.

A future for the land, cherished by its traditional owners and respected in the laws of our nation.

And a future built with respect for the traditions of our past and our people.

This is an important part of how we as a nation live and work together and how we chart our future.

I am privileged to have been here in this remarkable location and to share in this celebration with you.

Thank you.