Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Australia hands back sacred land to Aborigines

Map of Australia

The government of Australia's Northern Territory has handed back sacred land to a local Aborigine tribe.

The Emily and Jessie Gaps Nature Park, near Alice Springs, is significant for the Eastern Arrernte people as they have a strong attachment to the land.

The park contains totems of a race of ancient giant caterpillars, to which the people traces its origins.

The park will still be open to the public. The authorities have reached over 30 similar land use deals.

The BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney says the park has great spiritual and cultural significance because it tells the story of how the caterpillars once shaped the land.

There are economic benefits to the handover too, our correspondent says.

Under a joint management plan, the land will be leased back to the authorities and will continue to be a nature park.

The park is already a popular tourist site and some Aborigines work there as tour guides or rangers.

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