House of Assembly: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act

Mr TEAGUE (Heysen) (15:23): The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act of 1981, originally named the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act of 1981 (act number 20 of 1981), was assented to on 19 March 1981 and commenced on 2 October 1981. The act provided for the vesting of titled certain lands and the people known as Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara. Initially named, as I say, the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act, it gave traditional owners inalienable freehold title to their land in the far north-west of South Australia. It was a milestone for Indigenous self-determination in Australia.

On 30 October 1981, approximately 102,630 square kilometres of arid land in the state's north-west—about 10.4 per cent of the land area of the state of South Australia—was granted in freehold title to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara under the act. As is well known to members, the lands are located in the north-west of South Australia, and they include land in the north-west reserve and a number of pastoral leases. The most prominent features of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands are the Tomkinson, Mann, Musgrave and Everard Ranges. Most of the communities are located in and around these ranges.

It is in those circumstances that I was fortunate to be present just a couple of weeks ago at the major event to recognise and celebrate 40 years since the enactment of that most significant landmark legislation. It might be asked: hang on, is that not now heading on towards 43 years ago? It is. For reasons partly to do with COVID and other hurdles, and I think emblematic of just how complex and difficult to get to and to undertake a significant occasion on the lands it still is, we saw coming together this major event in recognition of 40 years only in the last few weeks.

I was fortunate to be present along with the member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey, the member representing around 90 per cent of the state's land area, including the APY lands. Over a two-day period including the time at which the major commemorative event occurred, we took the opportunity to sit down and spend time with a whole range of people who had come to Umuwa from all parts of the APY lands, including Richard King and his wife, Tania King, who have led the way in terms of management of the APY lands now for several years.

Among the many who were there to contribute to the festive occasions, I want to single out the leadership and work of Colin Koch, who was leading preparations for what was termed the Kulilaya Festival. Colin is well known to those in connection with the lands; indeed, over a lifetime of contribution to the arts as well. He was there bringing together the festival events.

There were a whole range of contributors to the festivities on the day, including, I might say, Dem Mob. Elisha Umuhuri from Dem Mob, who is known by the stage name Payday, was there. He said the group was excited for the upcoming festival, which would see all the local talent in the region. He made the observation that the 40th anniversary was happening just 20 minutes down the road from where it happened in 1981 in the creek at Ernabella to recognise the enactment.

I stood fortunately alongside Melissa Thompson on the 40-year anniversary, and together we held a photograph of my father together with her father, Punch Thompson, standing in the creek 40 years ago at Ernabella. Some things continue on through, and there are connections to be made as we go forward. There is much to celebrate, and much more work to do.