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Indigenous community leads the way in economic development.

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Indigenous community leads the way in economic development


Indigenous self-management and economic development will be given an historic boost today (Saturday 14 September) when full ownership of one of Australia’s top 20 cattle properties is handed over to west Queensland’s Kurtijar people.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Philip Ruddock, and the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Ian Macdonald joined with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission’s Gulf and West Queensland Regional Chair, Noel Sarmardin, to welcome the handover.

Mr Ruddock said the history of Indigenous management of the Delta Downs cattle station in Queensland’s Gulf country was an inspiration to all Australians and a model for future economic development by Indigenous communities.

The station, known as Morr Morr to Kurtijar people, was bought by ATSIC’s forerunner, the Aboriginal Development Commission, 20 years ago for about $2 million. And the Commonwealth was delighted to fund the purchase at the time. Today it is valued at close to $20 million and has been identified as one of the best cattle stations in the nation.

The station grew under the joint ownership of ATSIC and Kurtijar people. The ATSIC Board of Commissioners agreed to handover the remaining 51 per cent control to the traditional owners in recognition of their traditional association with the land and the capacity of the community to manage the property as a successful enterprise.

Mr Ruddock said: “This is a great example of what can be achieved when we provide land for cultural and social reasons and harness that to economic development.

“The Government knows Indigenous people want to overcome their dependency on welfare.

Unfortunately, owning land has not always led to economic development. Morr Morr is an example of what can be done,” he said. “We need more of this and the government will do all it can to encourage others.”

Senator Macdonald, who represented Mr Ruddock at the handover, said: “I have visited the station and surrounding areas of this country for many years and have been very impressed to see the development of the cattle station into a thriving business.

“Certainly there have been significant improvements to the Station during the last 20 years and the herd has expanded in size and quality from the 10,000 head that were there when the station was first acquired.

“Since 1982, the Kurtijar people in partnership with the ADC and then ATSIC have been able to buy more land at Karumba, increase the cattle herd to 35,000 head and make the company a leader in live beef exports to Asia and the Pacific.

“I am very honoured and pleased to now be able to hand over ownership of the station to the traditional owners of the area, the Kurtijar people.”

Mr Sarmardin said: “This divestment represents not only an historic restitution but also provides the Kurtijar people with the economic base to move away from welfare dependency towards real economic development.

“Morr Morr is a living testament to the ability of our people to manage and grow economic ventures and it is also a symbolic acknowledgment of the key role of Aboriginal people in establishing Australia’s pastoral industry.”

The Morr Morr cattle station is located midway between Normanton and Karumba in Queensland’s Gulf country. The station’s lease covers an aggregate of more than 394,000 hectares.

Kelly Stevens 0405 191 732 Senator Macdonald’s Office Jeremy Chitty 0418 971 042 Mr Ruddock’s Office Alistair Harris 0145 115 749 ATSIC (Satellite Phone)



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