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22 November 1978 Pitjantjatjara Land Rights

22 November 1978      Pitjantjatjara Land Rights

Introducing legislation to give the Pitjantjatjara people rights to their tribal land in the north-west of South Australia on 22 November 1978, the Premier, Don Dunstan, said that the Bill recognised the ‘fundamental and inalienable role that the Pitjantjatjara play in the heritage of the State’. The Bill sought to transfer control of the reserve to the traditional owners and a select committee, after hearing arguments from other interests, mainly pastoral and mining, that this would create ‘a state within a state’ recommended only minor amendments. The Bill was still before parliament when Labor lost office in September 1979. The new Tonkin Government decided to amend the Bill specifically to facilitate mining operations in the area. Protests by Pitjantjatjara people and supporters, favourably reported in the media, may have helped carry negotiations to a satisfactory agreement in October 1980 for the transfer of 100,000 square kilometres of land with provision for arbitration of any disputes between the Aborigines and mining companies. The Act was passed on 19 March 1981 and was the first land rights legislation in Australia which was the product of negotiations between the government and an Aboriginal group.

John Summers ‘Aborigines and Government in the Twentieth Century’, Eric Richards (ed), The Flinders History of South Australia Social History, 1986, pp.503-05.

Tags: land rights, Pitjantjatjara Land Rights