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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 677

Senator KILGARIFF —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In light of comments made on AM last week by a leading Aboriginal spokesman, Alderman Bob Liddle, expressing doubts as to whether the Mutitjulu community at Ayers Rock, which has been granted ownership of the Rock, represents the true traditional owners of the Rock, and reports indicating that the true traditional owners of the Rock were the Yunkutjijra people, who were probably wiped out by an epidemic of influenza in the early 1920s, is the Minister prepared to investigate the reliability of the anthropological studies upon which the Government has relied in determining the owners of the Rock? In view of the controversy as to which people represent the true owners of the Rock, is the Minister concerned that the Rock may have been given to an organisation which, it is to be noted, is not a tribe and may not represent the true owners of the Rock but may be the product of white man's intervention in the area of Aboriginal land rights, and which may be motivated by a desire for administrative and, perhaps, political control of the Rock?

Senator RYAN —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Holding, has provided me with some information on this matter. Mr Holding says that he has heard statements such as the statement of Mr Bob Liddle regarding ownership of the Rock, and he believes Alderman Liddle to be seriously misinformed. The former Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey, found in his report on the Uluru land claim that Uluru is a place of enormous significance both for the Aboriginal claimants and for a wider range of Aboriginal people. The Commissioner found that there are some 23 listed sites of significance at Uluru. There are a number of tribal groups living in the area, and Ayers Rock and the Olgas form the reference points for the 'countries' of these various groups. The Mutitjulu Community Incorporated is a body corporate which represents the people in the area. Nobody, other than apparently Mr Liddle, has suggested that the name Mutitjulu refers to a tribal grouping.

When considering the credentials of Mr Liddle to comment on Aboriginal affairs in Central Australia, it is worth considering the following points. In the 1983 Northern Territory election Mr Liddle, the Country Liberal Party candidate for the predominantly Aboriginal seat of Stuart, was able to attract only 35 per cent of the vote against the white Labor candidate, Brian Ede. Mr Liddle was also directly responsible for the shipment overseas of the invaluable Strehlow collection-an action that outraged the Aboriginal community. These are not the actions of a man who has the interests of his people or of anyone else at heart.