MARALINGA TJARUTJA 

 

MARALINGAAUSTRALIA

The Maralinga Tjarutja is the corporation representing the traditional Anangu owners of the remote western areas of South Australia known as the Maralinga Tjarutja lands. It is one of the four regions of South Australia classified as an Aboriginal Council (AC) and not incorporated within a local government area.

 

These Aboriginal Australian people, whose historic rights over the area have been officially recognised, belongs to the southern branch of the Pitjantjatjara people. They have a community centre at Oak Valley, 520 miles (840 km) NW of Ceduna, and close historical and kinship links with the Yalata 350 kilometres (220 mi) south, and the Pila Nguru centre of Tjuntjuntjara 370 kilometres (230 mi) to their west.

EFFECTS OF NUCLEAR TESTING

When the Australian government decided in the early 1950s to set aside the Emu Field and Maralinga in the area for British nuclear testing, the community at Ooldea was forcibly removed from the land and resettled further south at Yalata, in 1952.

 

Road blocks, and soldiers barred any return. Yalata, bordering on the Nullarbor Plain offered a totally different ecological environment, in place of the spinifex plains to the north, the Maralinga Tjaruta people found an arid stone plain, with poor thin soil and a powdery limestone that kicked up a grey dust when disturbed. Their word for "grey", namely tjilpi also signified the greying elders of a tribe, and the native denizens of Yalata called the new area parna tjilpi, the "grey earth/ground", suggesting that their forced relocation to Yalata went concomitantly with ageing towards death.

Between 1956 and 1957, 7 atomic bombs were exploded on Maralinga land. In further minor trials from 1957 to 1962, plutonium was dispersed widely over much of the area. Compensation in 1993 of $13.5 million was determined after 3 elders flew to London and presented samples of the contaminated soil in London in October 1991.

In 1962, the long-serving Premier of South AustraliaSir Thomas Playford made a promise that their traditional lands would be restored to the people displaced at Yalata sometime in the future. Under the administration of his successor Frank Walsh, short two-week long bush trips were permitted, enabling them to re-connect with their traditional lifestyles.

 

As negotiations got underway in the 1980s, the native peoples started setting up outstations near their original lands. With the passage of the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act in 1984 under Premier John Bannon's government, the Maralinga Tjarutja secured freehold title in 1984, and the right to developmental funds from the State and Federal governments. They completed a move back into Oak Valley in March 1985.

In 2003 South Australian Premier Mike Rann opened a new school, costing $2,000,000 at Oak Valley. The new school replaced 2 caravans, devoid of running water and air-conditioning in the middle of the desert, a developing world-type teaching facility that had been described as the "worst school in Australia".

 

In May 2004, following the passage of special legislation, Rann fulfilled a pledge he had made as Aboriginal Affairs Minister in 1991,by handing back title to 21,000 square kilometres (8,100 sq mi) of land to the Maralinga Tjarutja and Pila Nguru people. The land, 1000 km Northwest of Adelaide and abutting the Western Australia border is now known as Mamungari Conservation Park. It includes the Serpentine Lakes and was the largest land return since Premier John Bannon's hand over of Maralinga lands in 1984.

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