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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 10:55 GMT
Aborigines in big land claim win
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

An Aboriginal tribe in Australia has won joint control of World Heritage-listed rainforests in a major land rights claim.

The deal covers 6,000 sq km (2,300 sq miles) in New South Wales state.

Tribal chiefs hope it will provide jobs and enable indigenous communities to become less dependent on welfare.

The agreement between the Githabul people and New South Wales state government follows a decade of talks and legal argument.

This is a fantastic victory for the Githabul tribe. Their land rights claim is one of the country's biggest and covers a vast area of national parks and forests.

It includes rugged mountain peaks said to be home to powerful ancestral spirits.

High unemployment

These sorts of deals are more about shared access to land rather than exclusive ownership.

They recognise that Aborigines have historic claims over parts of Australia and permit them to carry out traditional activities.

The Githabul people will be allowed to hunt protected native animals, including turtles and echidnas, which are spiny anteaters.

Aboriginal leaders will jointly manage the state forests and national parks, among them several UN World Heritage sites.

It is hoped that jobs and wealth will follow.

Many of Australia's Aborigines live in remote communities, which suffer from very high rates of poverty and unemployment.

Elders from the Githabul tribe are also involved in a second land rights claim taking in parts of southern Queensland.

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