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Media Release
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
Greg Hunt MP

29 September 2005

Mala Return to Uluru

Uluru-Kata Tjuta 's traditional owners, Anangu, will today celebrate the return of a vital part of their heritage: a small wallaby called Mala which was driven from the landscape more than 50 years ago.

Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for Uluru-Kata Tjutu National Park, said the occasion was important for joint management and the protection of the Park's natural and cultural World Heritage values.

"The Mala, or rufous hare-wallaby, once inhabited spinifex country throughout Central Australia," Mr Hunt said. "It is now extinct in the wild and has not been seen at Uluru since well before the Park was created in 1985.

"The return of the Mala is an important part in linking the past with the future. It has been achieved by Anangu and Uluru park rangers working together, each contributing their respective skills and knowledge. This is a prime objective of joint management: to make sure that traditional skills and values are complemented with a 'scientific' approach in looking after the country of the Park.

"I am delighted that the Mala will return in this twentieth anniversary year that celebrates the Handback of these lands to the traditional owners and the creation of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in 1985."

Anangu and Parks Australia have built a 170 hectare feral proof enclosure, which will become the new home for 25 mala reared in Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory. It is hoped that the mala will adapt to their new home, breed and eventually be released into the wild and contribute to the long-term survival of the species.

The Mala 'hare wallaby' people are important creation beings in Anangu Law, Tjukurpa. There are many spiritual places at Uluru associated with the Mala stories, and Mala inma (ceremonies) are part of the living culture which dates back tens of thousands of years.

The Anangu see the reintroduction of the Mala as a park management priority and a way to encourage the passing of important ecological and cultural knowledge between generations of Anangu and also Park staff.

"It is a good way for the children to learn about their culture. Not only children; many people have grown up who are unfamiliar with old animals…Today people know the goannas, the kangaroos, the sand python, but think how happy they would be to see these other animals back in the country. Things would be clear, they could see and understand. It is good work bringing them back," Barbara Tjikatu, an Anangu member of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management, said.

"To bring back animals will make us really happy," Ginger Wikilyiri, Senior Anangu Ranger said. "In this way we can teach the younger generations about the importance of these animals as food to us, and about their place in the country and our Law - learn how they live and how to look after them."

The Mala project is a collaboration between the Department of the Environment and Heritage, the Mutitjulu Community with the support of the Parks and Wildlife Service of the Northern Territory.

Media enquiries:
Fiona Murphy 0423 577 045 (Mr Hunt's office)
Attachments: Mala and Uluru, Mala Fact Sheet

Mala and Uluru

The Mala, or rufous hare-wallaby, once inhabited spinifex country throughout Central Australia. Today the Mala is extinct in the wild, wiped out by European settlement, changing fire regimes and feral predators such as cats and foxes. There have been no Mala in Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park since the mid 1900s. But for Uluru's traditional owners, Anangu, the Mala or 'hare wallaby people' are important ancestral beings. For tens of thousands of years, the Mala have watched over them from rocks and caves and walls, guiding them on their relationships with people, plants and animals, rules for living and caring for country. Mala Tjukurpa, the Mala Law, is central to their living culture and celebrated in story, song, dance and ceremony.

The Mala story

In the beginning, Mala men women and children travel a long way to reach Uluru. When these hare wallaby people arrive, they camp at sites separate from one another: young men in one place, old men in another, senior single and married women elsewhere, all surrounding the other women and children in the middle.

Senior Mala men come from the north-west, bearing a ceremonial pole which they plant at a high point on Uluru. Now the Inma or ceremony can begin. Everything is done in a proper way, even everyday jobs like hunting, gathering and preparing food, collecting water, talking to people, or just waiting. This has been Tjukurpa, the Law, for men, women and children ever since.

Luunpa, the kingfisher bird, cries out a warning "Purkara, purkara!": an evil dog -like creature called Kurpany has been created by people in the west to destroy the Mala ceremony. The warning is ignored and Kurpany kills two Mala men, and everyone, men, women and children run away.

The Mala walk

Today's visitors can see many signs of the Mala creation in landscape features across the northwest face of Uluru. Look for Ili (the wild fig tree) and Arnguli (the bush plum) which Mala women and children gathered for food. At Malaku Wilytja, look for the huge slab of rock in front of a cave, made by Mala women and children to sit and rest - and inside, see the children's hand marks on the ceiling. Visit Kantju waterhole, the main water supply for Mala ceremonies and one of the few reliable waterholes around Uluru. Be quiet here and look and listen.

People who climb are walking over the tracks of the Mala. Anangu ask that visitors respect their wishes and choose not to climb because of Uluru's great spiritual significance. Stay safe on the ground and go for a walk with a Ranger.

The Mala Walk begins at the main carpark at the base of Uluru. It is about two kilometres return, and we suggest 90 minutes to relax and enjoy this area.

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park Mala Reintroduction Project

What is a Mala?

Why are there no wild Mala?

Where are Mala now?

Enclosure at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Where will the Mala come from?

The Benefits

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