APY Land Leaders Celebrate 40th Anniversary of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act

Indigenous leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands say today’s 40th anniversary of the Land Rights Act is a special day for reflection.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains a photograph of a deceased person.

The anniversary marks four decades since the original owners were granted freehold rights to APY’s outlying lands in South Australia.

It allows its traditional owners to determine how the land is collectively managed.

Although the ongoing risk of COVID-19 means celebrations have to be postponed until next year, Richard King, general manager of APY Lands, said today’s anniversary was an opportunity to look at how far the community had come.

APY Lands General Manager Richard King.(

Supplied: APY


“While a lot has happened and life has improved across the lands, there is still a lot to be done.”

He encouraged the next generation to “engage in creating a future for themselves and their families”.

“It’s an opportunity…to take some input from young and emerging leaders about where they want to go in the future, and to make sure we start building a pool of young leaders who are able to take on the challenges for the future.”

Land rights law making history

The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 (SA) remains unprecedented in the history of Australian land rights, granting the inalienable freehold right to its traditional owners.

The law means that the people of Anangu Pitjantjatjara own more than 100,000 square kilometers of land in the far northwest of the state.

Black and white photo of David Tonkin and Punch Kawaki Thompson
South Australian Prime Minister David Tonkin with Pitjantjatjara Punch Chairman Kawaki Thompson OAM signing the agreement.(

Supplied: APY’s See Irritation Project


It did so by establishing Anangu Pitjantjatjara – renamed Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara in 2005 – as a legal authority.

King said APY’s Land Rights Act was one of the first to be granted in Australia.

Stephen Marshall, Prime Minister of South Australia, said starting work on October 2, 1981 was a “historic and very proud achievement”.

He said the state government provided funding to the APY Executive Board to celebrate this important event.

He plans to visit the area when the festivities take place.

“I acknowledged this in the grant to APY from the PM’s COVID-19 Safe Indigenous Community Leadership Award.”

Celebrations planned with increased vaccination rates

The 40th Anniversary Festival, which will feature artists and guests from across the country, is scheduled to take place on April 10, 2022.

King said planning for the festivities will continue to anticipate improved vaccination levels.

He said delaying the festivities was the safest decision for the community.

“We thought it was better to postpone it, to give us more time and give people more time to vaccinate,” he said.

“We’re dealing with a vulnerable group of people and we’re going to bring in people from all over Australia.”


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