Land returned to Maralinga Tjarutja people after 60 years

By / 5th of November, 2014

A significant part of the Woomera Prohibited Area will be returned to the Maralinga Tjarutja people in a ceremony today.

Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Minister Ian Hunter said following a long and hard-fought campaign, the land - which was contaminated by nuclear waste following atomic testing conducted by the British government from 1955 to 1963 - has been rehabilitated.

“The area is part of the ancestral lands of the Maralinga Tjarutja (MT) people and it is as significant to them as any other part of their country,” Mr Hunter said.

“Section 400 of the MT Lands is about 3000 square kilometres in the south western sector of the Woomera Prohibited Area and is an area prescribed under the Commonwealth Defence Act for defence testing purposes. It includes about half of the MT Lands."

As a result of negotiation between State and Commonwealth Governments, the British completed a clean up of the area in 2000.

The handover gives the MT people an opportunity to expand their tourist operation at Maralinga Village. There are plans to start bus tours of the old Maralinga Village site, nuclear test areas and traditional lands.

MT General Manager Richard Preece said there is strong interest from grey nomads, four-wheel-drive clubs and former servicemen based at the site.