Australia designates huge area around Ayers Rock as protected indigenous land

Ayers Rock,  a giant red rock that rises 348m above the desert, is surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of desolate Outback and forms a key part of Aboriginal creation mythology.
Ayers Rock, a giant red rock that rises 348m above the desert, is surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of desolate Outback and forms a key part of Aboriginal creation mythology.PHOTO: ST FILE

SYDNEY (AFP) - More than five million hectares of Outback surrounding Australia's famed tourist attraction Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, was on Thursday (Oct 1) declared an indigenous protected area.

The designation - covering a region slightly larger than Denmark - means indigenous communities enter an agreement with the government to environmentally and culturally preserve the land.

The indigenous land owners will also receive government funding to protect cultural sites, native plants and animals, while creating local jobs and businesses.

The Central Land Council, a grouping of 90 Aboriginal people from the south of Australia's Northern Territory, said the deal took five years to negotiate and had created the fourth-largest protected area on the vast island continent.

"We really want to teach the young ones how to look after the place properly and strongly," traditional owner Janie Miama said in a statement issued by the Central Land Council.

"This sort of work gives us a chance to travel around the country to show them all the places; to get out there and see all the waterholes and the important places, learn about them (and) learn how to look after them."

Uluru, a giant red rock that rises 348m above the desert, is surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of desolate Outback and forms a key part of Aboriginal creation mythology, attracting about 350,000 tourists a year.