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"My husband and I talked to the judge for Uluru. We talked up strong together, for our own country. I talked strong in explaining the connections to the land in all these areas, my father-in-law's, mother-in-law's country, my husbands country. We were long time in court. I was worried, so I talk a lot, telling them all the connections to the families and connections to the land. I know the history well. Yes I talked strong for Uluru and I danced at the handback."Barbara Tjikatu
"I think most Australians understand our love for our land and country, and we have belonged to Uluru and Kata Tjuta for thousands of years now, and this way we can make sure the place is looked after properly for everyone."Cassidy Uluru

On 26 October 1985 the pledge by the Australian Government to return Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park became a reality when the Governor General of Australia, Sir Ninian Stephen, ceremonially handed over title for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to the Traditional Owners of the area – the Anangu.

Anangu representatives immediately leased the Park back to the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (now Parks Australia), Professor J D Ovington, on behalf of the Australian Government. The lease was for a period of 99 years and allowed continued access to the Park for all Australians.

The land was to be run under a system of 'joint management' like Kakadu National Park, with a Board of Management comprising a majority of Anangu members. The first Board Chair was Yami Lester, who stood by and translated Sir Ninian Stephen.

The hand over and lease back ceremony was held in the Mutitjulu community near the base of Uluru. It was a night of singing and dancing for the Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal people, the celebrations marking a long struggle for Anangu to be recognised as the rightful custodians of Uluru, Kata Tjuta and the surrounding land.

A special Inma (dance) and Pitjantjatjara anthem were created for the ceremony.

"Today we stand not merely in the centre of our continent, at its very heart, but beside what has become one of our national symbols, what Aboriginal Australians know as Uluru and what the rest of us think of as Ayers Rock;  and in the far distance lies Kata Tjuta, the Olgas.  National symbols to all Australians, these great rocks have been places of high significance to Aboriginals for many thousands of years.  Their great mass, their stark contrast with the surrounding plain, and something far less tangible, the sense of awe and of wonder which they create, gives this area a very special significance to all Australians.

To those of us who live far away, in the cities strung out along our continent's sweep of coastline in a great arc around "the Rock", it beckons insistently – drawing us inland to discover and learn to understand the vastness of our land.

For many Aboriginal people, this place has still deeper meaning and deep spiritual significance, a significance whose roots go back to time immemorial.  And now, today, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Aboriginal land trust becomes the custodian of this heartland of Australia.  The Trust, by the deed which is to be handed over today, acquires inalienable freehold title under Australian law to this place which is so special to its members.  And at the same time, recognising, too, the special significance of Uluru to all Australians, and the appropriateness of it remaining as an Australian National Park, the Trust will today lease it back to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service as a National ParkThe Aboriginal Land Trust will henceforth be the legal owners of this place and Aboriginals will have a real say in the management of this national park through membership of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta board.  Uluru has seen countless generations come and go, and, as a National Park, will long after all of us here today are gone and quite forgotten, remain for future generations of Australians a place of wonder and of strange beauty.  I now place in the hands of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Aboriginal Land Trust the title deeds."

Sir Ninian Stephen

Yami Lester speaks to the crowd

Kim Wilson Interview


AIATSIS acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community.

We pay our respects to elders past and present.