Opening of the new Central Land Council building
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on today, the Arrernte, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
I am very pleased be here to open the new Central Land Council headquarters.
The Central Land Council has a unique and impressive record spanning 35 years.
Advocates for 15 language groups across 750,000 square kilometres.
The Central Land Council has signed more Indigenous Land Use Agreements under the Native Title Act than any other Native Title Representative Body in Australia.
As well, the Council has avoided lengthy drawn out court cases – achieving results speedily rather than years after many of the claimants have passed away.
And through Council development projects across 30 communities, traditional owners have been able to invest $15.5 million from rent and royalties which will yield great returns for them and their children.
The Central Land Council is also out working in communities – establishing learning centres, setting up programs to combat kidney disease, undertaking community infrastructure initiatives, creating employment opportunities.
More than half of the Council’s 170 staff are Indigenous.
It is a great record.
It’s an outstanding contribution to central Australian life.
Up until now this has been achieved with staff working in less than ideal conditions – scattered in different locations across the town.
Now, with this new location the Council’s operations will be centralised.
I know many of you here today have worked hard to see this day happen.
The Australian Government provided $6.8 million for the building from the Aboriginals Benefit Account with the Council meeting the $4 million balance.
It’s a great investment in supporting the Land Council to make sure Indigenous Australians reap the economic and social benefits which flow from land use agreements.
Including funds for economic development, housing, education and cultural preservation.
The CLC has an iconic position in Australian Indigenous affairs history.
It has played a role nationally in key issues relating to land rights, notably the passage of the Native Title Act but also in supporting Aboriginal aspirations in other states.
It has also played an extremely significant role in Central Australia – in fighting for and protecting Aboriginal rights to land, to sacred sites and to country.
Just one example – its role in protecting women’s and men’s sites under threat from residential and other urban development in Alice Springs stands out.
I am a strong supporter of the CLC and land councils generally.
The CLC has important statutory functions which it has carried out with distinction. I respect the CLC’s role and won’t allow it to be undermined.
I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution of the Executive and of course David Ross.
The CLC engenders extraordinary loyalty and support from its members and its staff.
Many Executive members have contributed over many years. Today I want to publicly acknowledge the energy, commitment and service of the CLC’s Executive members – past and present – and its staff over many years.
The opening of this building is a potent symbol of the transition of the CLC – and land rights generally – from the past into the future.
The future will bring new challenges, new issues and new opportunities.
By dint of commitment and hard work, the CLC has built itself into one of the pre-eminent players in Central and, more generally, remote Australia.
My hope is that the CLC will continue to contribute to the economic, social and cultural wellbeing of its constituents into the future.
This will require change – to ways of working, to ways of seeing and ways of doing things because the future does not lie in the past.
I am confident the CLC and the Aboriginal people of Central Australia will step up to the challenges and grasp the opportunities of the future.
I have much pleasure in declaring the new headquarters of the Central Land Council, open