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Tuesday, 22 April 1980
Page: 1640


Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) - by leave- I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I am very pleased that the report on this land claim has been brought down. I know that the Aboriginal people in the area also will be very pleased. They have been waiting quite some time for this claim to be presented. From recollection the claim was listed in about May 1978. 1 understand that it came through to the Minister in October of last year. As indicated in the report, 200 Aboriginals will benefit from the acceptance of this claim. There are a number of important sites in the area. The report states that 200 people will be involved in the claim, either on the spiritual side or in another area, and that an additional 50 people will live there during the wet season. I also draw attention to page 2 of the statement of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), which states:

It is the view of the Aboriginals that the return of this land to its traditional owners will enable tribal elders to exercise more influence on younger tribe members and would help preserve their culture, customs and ceremonies.

The point was made by the Minister that the area is too small for a cattle station and, of course, it was not allocated for that purpose. But it is well watered, it is quite good cattle country and it is appropriate for the home land concept. Obviously, that is not the same as its being spiritual homeland but it is ideal for the people who live on pastoral properties. Once again, I commend this concept to the Minister. People on pastoral properties ought to be given enough land- the term 'enough' will vary in different parts of the Northern Territory- to run a few cattle and to have some independence from the pastoral property owners.

It is my contention that every pastoral property in the Northern Territory should be required to set aside an area of land for this purpose. I go so far as to say that legislation insisting on that ought to be brought down. When Aboriginal people are happy to continue working on a station but do not want their own stations, then I would go so far as to say that they need an area of land which gives them the independence to which I refer. An interesting comment in the report is that the owner of Montejinni has been using Government water bores- in other words, the bores on the stock routes. I make no comment on this at this stage. I notice that the Northern Territory Government has opposed the claim. This seems rather strange as the Aboriginal Land Commissioner found that the route was not used and in terms of the report, had no practical purpose. One wonders why the Northern Territory Government then went forward with an objection to the claim being made.


Senator Cavanagh - On principle.


Senator ROBERTSON - I imagine it was on principle. It is a most unfortunate principle for a group of people who claim to have the interests of the Aboriginal people at heart. Page 3 of the Minister's statement reads:

During the hearing evidence was given that a portion of land around a Government bore known as Pussycat Bore had a valuable role to play in disease eradication and control, because of holding yards and facilities including a cattle dip which exist there. The Commissioner commented that the evidence demonstrated a value in the retention of an area of one square mile or thereabouts around Pussycat Bore for these purposes.

I notice that the Aboriginal Land Commissioner suggested that one square mile should be retained and that the Minister has decided to excise from the grant an area of 12.95 square kilometres or 5 square miles. No doubt when we debate this matter further in the chamber the Minister will care to indicate to us why he thought that 5 square miles was needed whereas the evidence presented to the Commissioner, on which he based his ruling, was that one square mile was enough. One wonders why a 400 per cent increase was recommended. Perhaps we will get Aboriginals putting in land claims in which an additional 400 per cent is sought. I am pleased to see that the Minister has taken the attitude that he has to the stock routes. He said:

In the unlikely event that such a need arises -

That is, the need to move cattle on foot over these routes- the Northern Land Council and the traditional owners of Yingawunarri would not have any reason to deny access to the Dry River and Murranji stock routes.

I trust that the Minister, in making this statement, is speaking after having consulted both the Northern Land Council and the traditional owners. If he is not, there could well be reasons why people might deny access to that route. The Minister mentioned the Buchanan Highway and said that it will remain a road. He has given no indication of whether rangers will be needed to supervise movement along this road. My observation is that this will not be necessary, but perhaps it is worth keeping in mind that we do not simply declare roads but if they are to pass through sites of significance and certainly by sacred sites, rangers could be necessary to supervise the move. No doubt the comments that have been made about roads in this report will be referred to when we have a debate tomorrow on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill since it deals with roads. I make the point briefly that this fifth claim is far more acceptable than some of the earlier ones. I refer in particular to the Borroloola claim. I will not raise that matter again. I commend the concept. I feel that it is a good idea to set aside an area of land for people who are working cattle stations. I hope to see it extended. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.







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