Aboriginal people buy Uluru resort

By AAP with AG Staff 18 October 2010
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The Aboriginal Land Corporation has bought the Ayers Rock Resort for $300 million.

THE INDIGENOUS LAND CORPORATION (ILC) has purchased the tourist icon Ayers Rock Resort for $300 million. ILC chairperson Shirley McPherson has described it as an historic deal that will transform the tourism industry.

“They (Aboriginal people) have been sitting outside looking in and now they’ll be there and part of the operations – they’ll also operate the tours,” Shirley told journalists on Friday. “When we did our research we only found one indigenous person that had been employed of the 670 (at the resort) and that’s a crime.”

The ILC has exchanged contracts to acquire the entire Yulara resort in the Northern Territory from Voyages Hotels and Resorts, including all hotels and accommodation, as well as the airport and workers’ village. The deal is in partnership with the Wana Ungkunytja (WU), which represents indigenous business interests in nearby communities.

It will also see the establishment of a National Tourism Training Academy at Yulara, with 200 people in training each year from 2013.

Shirley says the ILC aims to have 50 per cent of the workforce at the resort to be local Aboriginal people by 2015. The agreement had been in the making for two years, she says. “This is coming from the community and we have found from past experience in the indigenous community that if it is not from the community it will not work.”

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Long overdue

Federal Indigenous Employment Minister Mark Arbib says that greater Aboriginal participation in showcasing tourism to the world was long overdue.  “The best way to bridge indigenous unemployment (and disadvantage) is through jobs,” he said, adding the deal aimed to use training and jobs to economically empower Aboriginal communities.

Wana Ungkunytja chairwoman Margaret Smith says the community had previously felt excluded from sharing in the spoils of tourism. “Share, share, that’s what makes us strong,” she says.

Voyages Hotels and Resorts owner GPT will receive an $81 million payment on settlement of the transaction, expected in early 2011. The Indigenous Land Council will pay GPT a further $81 million 12 months after settlement and make a third payment of $138 million five years after settlement, bringing the total cost to $300 million.

The sale of the resort, which features a range of accommodation and eateries at Uluru in central Australia, completed the GPT group’s exit from the hotel and tourism sector, chief executive officer and managing director Michael Cameron said in a statement released to the Australian stock exchange on Friday.

“Ayers Rock Resort is a unique and high-quality asset that continues to deliver solid returns but no longer fits with GPT’s focus on Australian retail, office and industrial asset classes.”