Eastern Arrernte secure another piece of Simpson Desert

Photo; Christopher Watson
Eastern Arrernte traditional owners have won Aboriginal freehold title to a missing piece of the vast Simpson Desert land claim.

The grant concludes one of the largest and longest running land claims in the Central Land Council region 36 years after it was first lodged.

The title to the 110,000 hectare area, also known as NT Portion 4208, was granted to the Atnetye (pronounced at-NIT-cha) Aboriginal Land Trust in a handback ceremony at Keringke Arts in Santa Teresa community yesterday.

Many of the traditional owners of the area, from the Uleperte (oo-la-PUR-ta) and Uleralkwe (oo-la-RALK-wa) estate groups, live at Santa Teresa, Alice Springs and along the Plenty Highway.

Former Aboriginal Land Commissioner Howard Olney gave his report on the Simpson Desert Land Claim Stage IV in 2009.

Although NT Portion 4208 had not previously been recommended for grant he suggested that, given his findings of traditional ownership of the Uleperte estate and the subsequent location of an important sacred site, that the Federal Government consider granting that land to the traditional owners.

It was not included in the title to 18,000 square kilometres of the Simpson Desert returned by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011.

Following representations from the CLC, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion advised in May 2014 that NT Portion 4208 would be included in a schedule to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and handed back to the traditional owners.

“There’s plenty of sacred sites there and we still have plenty of ceremony and pass the knowledge on,” the late former CLC chair Lindsay Bookie said during the 2011 Simpson Desert handback ceremony.

“Our culture has stayed really strong and we know all the places and all the stories and songs.”

Mr Bookie was one of the claimants who gave evidence about their cultural and spiritual links to country in hearings held in the Simpson Desert.

He said even though the Simpson Desert was remote, people were still strongly connected to their country.

“The traditional owners already look after that country but now it’s ours we can control visitors’ behaviour a bit better because they will have to have a permit,” Mr Bookie said.

We want them to keep our country clean and not chuck their rubbish around like some travellers have done.

“They’ve got to look after the country, we’ve all got to do it.”

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