Handover of Deeds
I want to first acknowledge the Eastern Arrente, Central Arrente and Southern Arrente people – on whose land we are meeting.
It is a great honour to be here today to hand back six parcels of land to Aboriginal land trusts representing the traditional owners.
Today I return Arltunga Historical Reserve, Chambers Pillar, Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve, Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve, N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park and Trephina Gorge Nature Park to the traditional owners of the land.
Corroboree Rock, N’Dhala Gorge, Trephina Gorge and Arltunga Historical Gorge are located between 60 and 150 kilometres to the east of Alice Springs and are part of the East McDonnell Ranges.
They are places of great natural beauty and cultural significance – including ancient Aboriginal rock etchings and significant men’s sites.
To the south, the handover of the Ewaninga Rock Carvings means the traditional owners will work with the NT Parks and Wildlife Service on the ongoing management of the park.
And further south, a geographical landmark and important cultural site for the Arrente language group – Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve – is being returned.
I’m told that for the Southern Arrente people, the pillar is the fierce knob-tailed gecko man or Iterrkewarre – a central figure in their Dreaming who travelled the landscape of Central Australia.
The story of Chambers Pillar also emphasises the cultural significance of marrying the right skin.
More recently, Chambers Pillar was an important landmark for early explorers of Central and Northern Australia, many of whom carved their names into the sandstone of the Pillar.
These sites are part of our history.
They connect all of us to the ancient and ongoing culture we have the honour of sharing with Indigenous Australians.
I want offer my thanks to the traditional owners for their great generosity in agreeing to lease back their land so others can visit and share its beauty and significance.
And I commend your commitment to having the land returned.
I also want to thank everyone involved for the sensible, considered approach you all took in managing the process of the land claims and avoiding going to a hearing – and the time and money that involves.
And I’d like to congratulate the Northern Territory Government on granting title to Native Gap and Kiyunba and Dulcie Ranges Parks – paving the way for the handover of other parks in the Western MacDonnells and other parts of the NT.
These handovers are part of a historic ‘Parks Deal’ which covers a large number of parks and conservation areas across the NT.
They are a tangible outcome of that deal in Central Australia.
The Parks deal agreed between the NT Land Councils and the NT Government – formally titled “Frameworks for the Future” is significant for a number of reasons.
First, it represents a non-litigated, broad seek settlement of potential native title claims. Few people realise that the NT Government and NT Land Councils have led the nation in this regard.
Second, it represents a win/win outcome which guarantees access to the Territory’s parks for all Territorians – and indeed all Australians – for 99 years.
Third, it guarantees a role in the ongoing management of these parks and reserves for traditional owners and their nominated organisations.
Taken together, these outcomes amount to a new pathway forward for both the Territory and indeed Australia.
A pathway which recognises and acknowledges Aboriginal ownership of country, but also the importance of finding ways to share country with non-Indigenous Australians.
The traditional owners, and the Land Councils, are to be congratulated for their far-sighted vision.
So too is the NT Government congratulated for its investment in the Territory’s parks estate.
But today is for the traditional owners. We acknowledge their ownership, we acknowledge the fact that they have cared for this country for generations.
We acknowledge their generosity in leasing the land back to the Territory for inclusion in the parks estate.
The deeds I am handing over today are signed by the Governor General.
Your ownership is formally and legally acknowledged not just by the Australian Government, but by the nation as a whole.
On behalf of the nation, I have great pleasure in presenting these deeds to the representatives of the traditional owners.