Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Speech, Talinguru Nyakunytjaku

Download PDFDownload PDF

Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion

Talinguru Nyakunytjaku — Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

Monday, 26 October 2015


I would like to begin by paying my respects to the Anangu people, the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet. I extend my respects to their elders, past and present and to all elders here today.

Today, it is particularly poignant to be able to acknowledge that we meet on your land—Uluru-Kata Tjuta.

I also acknowledge the other special guests and dignitaries here today.

I would like to especially acknowledge Mr Sammy Wilson, Chair, Uluru-kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management and all members of the Board of Management.

I would also like to acknowledge the members of the Mutitjulu community in particular the directors of the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation.

I would like to acknowledge the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, John Hardy, the Northern Territory Minister for Parks and Wildlife, Bess Price and everyone else who is here for this weekend’s special events.

In Dreamtime, Anangu ancestors travelled across flat, formless lands, creating the features we recognise as iconic today.

I pay my respects to your past elders who protected and cared for this land for tens of thousands of years; who cared for community.

I pay my respects to elders past and present, who—30 plus years ago—fought to have this land returned to the Anangu people.

And I pay my respects to elders here today, who follow in their parents and grandparents and ancestors footsteps, upholding their tradition, and reflecting their courage and determination to do right by the Anangu people.

Today you are strong and proud.

I remember Handback day 30 years ago as a young bystander to history.

In those images which most of us were only able to see on television, proud Aboriginal men and women held the title deeds and I remember the crowds of Anangu people here for the occasion.

Even with the joy of the handback, I remember that most Australians at the time still didn’t quite comprehend the significance of the moment for you—the Anangu people.

An advert in the Midweek Territorian in October 1985, placed by the NT Government three days before the handover, brazenly contested that ‘The Rock belongs to All Australians’.

It summed up the views of too many.

Through this process, all Australians learnt that many of the places we had visited were spiritually significant to the Anangu and we learnt to respect your wish to reserve these places for ceremony.

As I do the honours today, I want to applaud you for the struggle and journey that you undertook to have your land and culture recognised.

I recognise and thank the people who stood strong in the storm of public opinion, and between opposing governments

Over many years, there were countless meetings with the CLC, with Commonwealth government officials, with lawyers, with the Northern Territory Government.

There were difficult, long-term decisions to be made about levels of responsibility and management; difficult decisions, hard work, long time-frames.

Today I get the privilege of presenting to the original handback families, mementos of that day.

Sadly, many of the original visionaries from the late 70s and early 80s have passed on - but I salute them all for this incredible gift, not only to their children and children’s children, but to all Australians.

I also recognise some other familiar, faces who are here today: Professor Robert Layton; former board members Neil Bell, and June D’Rozario; lawyers John Coldrey and Richard Bradshaw; and Bruce Donald who wrote the lease agreement.

I’d also like to make special mention today of Barry Cohen, then Minister for the Environment. Since Barry is pretty unwell at the moment, may I extend for all of us our best wishes to him and his family.

The fact that handback was so controversial in 1985 but so accepted as right today is testament to how profound this great rock and its surrounds are to Australia’s national psyche.

That is why governments and community need to work together to continue to advance the interests of local Aboriginal people.

I am pleased to be working with Mutitjulu community and the Central Land Council to progress a sublease for Mutitjulu, so you are closer to the administration of your community.

I am also pleased to announce that I will support the redevelopment of the Adult Education Centre and works to improve the condition of the oval in Mutitjulu - and will ensure local people are engaged or employed in these works.

I must acknowledge Senator Peris who has worked closely with me and the community to identify what we need to do to support a more active and engaged community, one where children are able to go to school and get an education, adults are engaged and have opportunities for employment and where the community is safe.

I am excited to be working with the Central Land Council to start up a new ranger team here in Mutitjulu. This will be a great opportunity for more jobs and Aboriginal involvement in land management, particularly following the dedication of the Katiti Petermann Indigenous Protected Area - five million hectares for Aboriginal management.

I am pleased to be working with Voyages and the Ayers Rock Resort team to improve employment outcomes for Aboriginal people across the country - and I want to see more local Aboriginal people employed.

There is a lot to be excited and optimistic about.

But for now we must recognise and celebrate the hard work of the past.

This place is special to the nation and sacred for you.

Thirty years ago we began a journey of connection.

That journey continues. Thank you.