The Guardian 28 September, 2005

Anangu people
campaign to retain land rights

Bob Briton

Anangu people and supporters of their land rights protested on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House last week against changes to the State’s Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act 1981. The traditional owners of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in the north of SA have been calling for more time to consider the full ramifications of the changes since June when they first saw the complex text of the amending Bill. They also requested legal assistance to fully understand its dense, technical language. Both requests were turned down by State Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Terry Roberts.

Two weeks ago, Mr Roberts introduced the Bill into the Parliament’s Legislative Council. Protestors were in the gallery at the rear of the upper house and stood as one to shout "shame" at the minister. Some wore masks of the late premier Don Dunstan and carried signs reminding councillors of the relatively progressive role of previous governments in the area of Indigenous land rights.

At last week’s protest, the minister was at pains to explain to the crowd and fellow speaker Lowitja O’Donoghue that the legislation has a long way to go before it is enacted and that there is plenty of time to change it in line with the concerns of the traditional owners. The question of resources for the traditional owners to properly participate in that process was not dealt with.

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