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Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Page: 1660

Mr SNOWDON (Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel and Minister for Indigenous Health) (4:21 PM) —Today at Uluru in Central Australia we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the handing back of the Uluru and Kata Juta title deeds to the Anangu traditional owners and their almost immediately leaseback of that land which they acquired as a result of the land rights act to the Commonwealth for the enjoyment of the Australian community and the tens of thousands of international visitors who visit each year.

I had the privilege and honour to attend the transfer of that title, the celebration, 25 years ago. I have to say it was a profoundly moving event and a defining moment in our nation’s history. It was due to the work of a number of very, very committed Anangu people who drove the process to ensure that the Australian community would get to enjoy Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Two of those people are still alive, Donald Fraser and Yami Lester. Many of the other people who were involved, the leaders, have now passed away, sadly.

The celebration today not only honours the importance of Indigenous country but is also a very important comment on the Australian community’s ability to deal with the importance of Aboriginal spirituality. What the recognition of the title did in the first place, the transfer of the title to the Anangu people and then its lease back to the Commonwealth of Australia, to the people of Australia, was show that Aboriginal people, Anangu people, understood absolutely the imperative of their own culture and priorities as well as the importance of this iconic site to the nation at large.

Today, to celebrate, there is a festival at Uluru. Its theme is ‘tjukurpa munu manta kunpungku kanyintjaku’, which means ‘keeping culture and country strong together’. A lot has happened since that day 25 years ago. Some of it has brought great pride to the Australian nation. In 1987 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage natural property and in 1994 it was listed as a World Heritage cultural landscape. In 1995 Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park won the Picasso Gold Medal, the highest UNESCO award, for outstanding efforts to preserve the landscape and Anangu culture and for setting new international standards for World Heritage management. It was awarded jointly to Parks Australia and the Anangu Kata Tjuta Board of Management. People get a unique cultural experience in this part of Australia. It is a very, very important day to remember the contribution being made to this nation by the Anangu people of Central Australia.