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Return of lands boosts economic independence

A 4430 square km cattle station in Australia's Northern Territory was returned to its traditional Aboriginal owners in a ceremony at the Heartbreak Hotel, Cape Crawford, in remote Gulf country this morning (Wed, 9 August 2000).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister John Herron will hand over the Carpentaria Downs/Balbirini Station title deeds to the Kamanja (pronounced Gum'unja) group, the Karranjini (pronounced Gurran'jini - roll "r"s) group and the Binda group of people during a ceremony.

The Federal Government has returned 10 properties to traditional owners, six by agreed settlement, since coming to office in 1996.

The land, located 750km south-east of Darwin at the junction of the Tablelands and Carpentaria Highways, will be handed over to the Mambaliya Rrumburriya Wuyaliya Aboriginal Land Trust (pronounced mum'baali'ya rrum'barri'ya woo'yali'ya), representing 700 people with traditional links to the land.

Senator Herron said a strong cooperative arrangement between the Guranadji Aboriginal Corporation (pronounced Gurr'an'aji) and the neighbouring Bauhinia Downs Station had resulted in a sharing of equipment and labour including employment of some younger claimants. Senator Herron returned Bauhinia Downs Station to its traditional owners on 17 June last year.

"It is to Guranadji's credit that plans to fence Balbirini Station are well under way and this is expected to significantly increase stock numbers from around 3500 to a potential 16,000," Senator Herron said.

"This will contribute significantly to the economic independence of the traditional Aboriginal owners and to the Territory's economy as a whole. It is extremely fulfilling to see the traditional lands returned to the people who have continued to live on this land for thousands of years and who maintain strong cultural and spiritual links to the land.

"The lodgment and settlement of the Carpentaria Downs/Balbirini land claim has occurred during this Government's term and shows the growth of goodwill and acceptance of traditional ownership of Aboriginal lands."

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