Minister for Defence and Minister for Indigenous Affairs – Joint Media Release – Part of Maralinga Lands excised for traditional owners at Woomera

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Senator the Hon David Johnston

Minister for Defence

Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion

Minister for Indigenous Affairs

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3 June 2014

The traditional owners of the Maralinga Tjarutja Lands will now have unrestricted access to the area after it was excised from the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) by the Australian Government.

Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion announced today the remaining part of land known as ‘Section 400’ would be excised from the WPA following a request from the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

“Section 400 is part of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands in central South Australia and was the site of atomic testing and minor trials conducted by the British in the 1950s and 1960s,” Senator Johnston said.

Senator Johnston said the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia recommended the site be rehabilitated in consultation with the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

Between 1993 and 2001 the Australian Government spent more than $100 million rehabilitating the site and on 18 December 2009, Section 400 was formally handed back to the Maralinga Tjarutja, its traditional owners.

Senator Scullion said with the support of the Australian Government, the Maralinga Tjarutja people have already developed a successful tourism enterprise conducting guided tours of the atomic test sites and Maralinga Village.

“The tours are highly regarded, operate for most of the year and are an important source of income for the Maralinga Tjarutja.”

Maralinga Tjarutja general manager Richard Preece said the local people were delighted with the Government’s decision to excise Section 400 from the WPA.

"The local people are keen to embrace the economic potential of tourism in the area," Mr Preece said.

Senator Johnston said the Department of Defence had carefully considered the current and future use of Section 400.

“Noting the unique and historical circumstances and sensitivity to the Maralinga Tjarutja people, Defence has agreed to adjust its testing activities, enabling Section 400 to be removed from the WPA.

“I have instructed Defence to take the steps necessary to formally excise Section 400 from the WPA and ensure that the legal requirements are completed to formalise this process,” the Minister said.

“Once complete, the Maralinga Tjarutja people’s access to Section 400 will no longer be restricted by Defence’s use of the WPA.”

Media contacts:

Rebecca Horton (Senator Johnston’s Office) 0477 389 560

Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999

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