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Northern Territory Land Councils
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Alice Springs; Darwin
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Land tenure; Aboriginal Australians; Periodicals
David Ross and Wali Wunungmurra for the Central and Northern Territory Land Councils
Land Rights News
News, December 2008
Land rights news : Northern Edition; Land rights news : Central Australia
Central Land Council and Northern Land Council
L. Turner Angale - a great loss for Alice Springs For a woman who was so physically tiny, Ms Turner spent much of her life struggling against forces that believed they were stronger than her. But they weren't, because eventually L Turner Angale won nearly every baHie she took on. L Turner Angale bore w itness to two of the great victories for the Arrernte people of Alice Springs and played her part in the triumphs She was born in the 1 920s and played a crucial role in preventing a dam being built over important sacred sites in the Todd River and as a w itness in the Arrernte native title claim. Ms Turner Angale lived a traditional l ife with her family in a humpy at lrlpme on Bond Springs north of Alice Springs, learning about her father's country, her culture and law. Ms Turner's early life was in many ways like other Aboriginal people in the Alice Springs region at that time. Her father worked on Bond Springs and the family, who lived in humpies made from bullock skins in a large camp, walked to town on weekends to pick up rations. As a child she was hidden from Sargeant Stott by her mother and remembers many children being taken away. After marrying as a young girl, she moved around with her husband for station work. She cared for the sheep and nanny goats on the Garden Station and they l ived at Santa Teresa, Altunga, and Charles Creek as well as lrlpme. Ms Turner's life was typical of the dispossession suffered by Arrernte people. However, she took her role as caretaker for her traditional country very seriously and fought hard against one of the most shameful acts by the Northern Territory Gov ernment in local history. In 1983, former Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Everingham announced the construction of a rec reation dam near the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. The lake would destroy and desecrate a number of sacred sites, including Werlatye Atherre, an important part of the Two-Women Dreaming, which extends north and south of Alice Springs, connecting different language groups throughout Central Australia. Traditional landowners had consistently told the Northern Territory Government that Werlatye Atherre, which was registered under the Northern Territory Government Sacred Sites Act, could not be de stroyed, but Everingham was determined to proceed. A few weeks after the announcement, the traditional landowners established a protest camp near the Alice Springs Telegraph Station . The traditional landowners maintained the protest camp for six months unti l a fire caused two tragic deaths and the protesters had to leave the camp area in accordance with Aboriginal tradition. The Commonwealth Government intervened and halted the work temporarily while it inquired into the issue. It found that the significance of Werlatye Atherre made the area unsuitable for any recreation lake. The Northern Territory Government reluctantly dropped the proposal, but in 1988 a large flood claimed the lives of three Aboriginal river-campers. The new Chief Minister Steve Hatton blamed the traditional owners of Werlatye Atherre for the deaths and the Northern Territory Government renewed its push. This time Junction Waterhole slightly further north was chosen and early in January 1990, AAPA issued a certificate under the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Protection Act authorising a dam to be built at Junction Waterhole. Government plans continued from page 4 The traditional landowners were horrified: many had not been consulted at all and others had only been given half the story. The Central land Council fought hard and commissioned engineers to look at the proposal but the Northern Territory Government dismissed all objections and gave approval for the dam to proceed. There were a number of temporary halts to the work and AAPA withdrew its certificate, but work continued until 1992 when the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Robert Tickner issued a declaration under s.10 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act to protect the sacred sites around Junction Waterhole for a period of twenty years, effectively preventing the construction of the proposed dam. It was only the second s.10 declaration ever made and was a major victory for the Arrernte tradit ional landowners who had fought for so long. Ms Turner Angale was an important contributor to that victory. Ms Turner Angale then went on to become a w itness in the long struggle by the Arrernte to have nat ive title recognised over the town of Alice Springs. The application was lodged in 1994, and despite the preparedness of the former CLP Government to publicly acknowledge Arrernte people as the tradit ional owners of Alice Springs, a mutually agreeable settlement could not be negotiated despite the best efforts of the native title holders and the CLC. It meant that the claim would have to be contested in the Federal Court. l Turner Angale was one of those claimants whose evidence was heard The 80-year whole-of- up control of their whole The traditional owners this town. We've got to in the long hearings which would follow where, as a member of one of the three estate groups involved she talked about her connection to her country. In May 2000, six years and many thousands of dollars later, the Federal Court handed down a major decision formally recognising that Arrernte native title holders continue to retain their rights as t raditional owners and decision makers for most of the reserve, park and vacant crown land in Alice Springs. This decision was the f irst in Australia to recognise native t itle in an urban area. For the Arrernte, almost 130 years after European settlement began in the Centre, the common law of Australia had finally recognised their native title rights and interests as the owners of the Alice Springs area for thousands of years. The Federal Court decision bears testament to the determination of Arrernte people to maintain their traditional connection to country against overwhelming odds, and it also demonstrates the resilience and strength of Arrernte culture that provides the foundation for so much of the community life of Alice Springs and Central Australia. Ms Turner Angale l ived the early years of her l ife in a humpy, another Arrernte dispossessed of her land, she had to hide to escape becoming part of the Stolen Generations, she fought to protect her father's country from an indiscriminate dam and finally won native title over her land. For a woman who was so short on stature, Ms Turner Angale spent much of her l ife struggling against forces that believed they were stronger than her, but history has already proved them wrong. anything. community lease option community to the Common- would also relinquish any stand up for our rights." Anger at the meeting would also pay rent to the wealth office holder for the effective control via the Jimmy Langdon added: was also directed at the La traditional owners. 80-year leasing period. permits system. "We're supposed to look bor Party for not providing The rent for the first 15 However, while tradi- "The two million dol- after the land, but there are stronger representation for years of the lease would t iona I owners would not Iars is a bribe. It's our own changes that destroy the Aboriginal people. be two million dollars and have decision making money from the mines, land. If you say yes, you will "What about our Labor would be paid up front. power over development or Mathew Egan said. " It's not have no rights. politicians?" Dennis Wil Under the 80-year other decisions, they would the Federal Government's." we can say so many Iiams said. "We put them whole-of-community lease still be able to give advice in power and they don't option, traditional owners to the Commonwealth of- "We've got to stand up things, we can be angry even care. I think we should and Yuendumu commu- ficer through a consultative for our rights." Jeanie Egan about so many things, make some kind of indig nity members would give forum. said. "They want to take but at the end they do enous party. LAND RIGHTS NEWS DECEMBER 2008 21
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