Minister for Defence - Ceremony marks the return of Maralinga Tjarutja lands at Woomera

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Senator the Hon David Johnston

Minister for Defence

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5 November 2014

The Australian Government has formally acknowledged the excision of an area of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands, from Defence’s Woomera Prohibited Area, in an event held at the Maralinga Village today.

Known as ‘Section 400’ it was the site of atomic testing and associated trials conducted by the British in the 1950s and 1960s in South Australia.

Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston said the excision of Section 400 – a total of 1,782 square kilometres - will see the Maralinga Tjarutja people able to use the area of land without being restricted by Defence activities.

“The Maralinga Tjarutja people have waited far too long for this to become a reality, and it was the Abbott Government who recognised the significance of the excision,” Senator Johnston said.

“Defence has adjusted its testing activities to allow the removal of Section 400 from the Woomera Prohibited Area,” Senator David Johnston said.

Senator Johnston said Defence strongly values the working relationship with Maralinga Tjarutja and continues to test equipment and systems at Woomera to achieve our national security objectives. 

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion said the unrestricted access to this land would improve the Maralinga Tjarutja people’s tourism opportunities.

“The Section 400 area has particular significance to the Maralinga Tjarutja people and the unrestricted access to their land is important for the community, and for future generations.”

“The Maralinga Tjarutja people have already developed a successful tourism enterprise conducting guided tours of their traditional lands.

“This Government recognises that land is the greatest economic asset available to many remote Aboriginal communities. That is why we are committed to working with traditional owners to ensure that land can be used as a foundation for economic advancement, not as a barrier.”

The Australian Government spent $100 million rehabilitating the land between 1993 and 2001 following the recommendation of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia. The land was formally handed back to the traditional owners in December 2009 but remained subject to access restrictions until now.

Following a tour of the area, Senator Johnston presented Maralinga Tjarutja with a map showing the formal excision of Section 400 from the Woomera Prohibited Area to mark the occasion.

The ceremony was attended by Maralinga Tjarutja elders and community representatives along with Australian Government and South Australian Government representatives and officials including the Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston; the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion; Senator for South Australia, Senator Nick Xenophon; the South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Mr Ian Hunter; and members of the Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board among others.

Media note:

Images of the ceremony and Section 400 will be available on the Defence Image Gallery at

Media contacts:

Minister Johnston's office, Brad Rowswell, 0417 917 796

Minister Scullion's office, Kathryn Kilgariff, 0408 675 761

Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999


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