SYDNEY (AFP).- Australia Monday marked 30 years since the world's largest monolith Uluru was returned to its traditional Aboriginal owners with the government admitting it has not lived up to commitments made back then.
The iconic symbol of the Outback, also known as Ayers Rock, was handed back to the Anangu people, the area's original inhabitants who have lived in the area for thousands of years, on October 26, 1985.
As part of the agreement, the government signed a 99-year lease to jointly manage the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with the traditional custodians. More jobs and better living standards were expected to flow to the Anangu from the deal.
But Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said it had not always gone as planned.
"The implicit part of the agreement is that Anangu people do better because of the things that would come here; they would have jobs, they would have a better life, they would have more choices," he told reporters.
"The deal isn't complete, those opportunities have never been provided in the way they should have been. We need to make that change and we need to make that now."
He said 254 of the 450 Anangu community members in the area were out of work, despite the fact the Ayers Rock Resort, 20 minutes away, welcomed 300,000 visitors a year.
"We can't accept that there's 254 people in Mutitjulu on the dole," Scullion said.
"We can't just accept glibly pretty low inter-generational levels of literacy and numeracy. We can't simply look at that and say it's OK.
"This should be a reminder to us all to refocus our efforts (across Australia)."
Uluru, a giant red rock that rises 348 metres (1,148 feet) above the desert, is surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of desolate Outback and forms a key part of Aboriginal creation mythology. It is also a World Heritage site.
While artist Malya Teamay told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he was pleased with the way tourists were learning about Aboriginal culture, others said the Anangu people seemed to be missing out on much of the economic activity.
Sammy Wilson, chairman of the board of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, criticised the government for directing much of its funding to the Ayers Rock Resort, which he said had become the focus of tourism and not the local people.
"It seems like a big vacuum cleaner is sucking everything away," Wilson said.
"This place (Uluru) is our culture here, but it (the funding) is ending up over there (at the resort); it should be here."
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