Railway land at Murray Bridge handed back to Ngarrindjeri traditional owners

Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation vice chairman Anthony Wilson, state MP Adrian Pederick, NAC chairman Grant Rigney, Mayor Brenton Lewis and Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority chairman Harley Hall walk along the edge of railway land on Murray Bridge's riverfront, recently handed back to the traditional owners. Photo: Peri Strathearn.
Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation vice chairman Anthony Wilson, state MP Adrian Pederick, NAC chairman Grant Rigney, Mayor Brenton Lewis and Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority chairman Harley Hall walk along the edge of railway land on Murray Bridge's riverfront, recently handed back to the traditional owners. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Whether it's a hotel, a conference centre or something else, Grant Rigney has big dreams for a stretch of Murray Bridge riverfront.

The Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) chairman met Mayor Brenton Lewis and state MP Adrian Pederick on the former railway land on Friday to finalise a transaction that had been awaited for decades.

The land - 9.7 hectares between the railway line and Hume Reserve, mostly covered by trees and weeds - was handed back to the traditional owners by the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure on June 20.

It had been cited as a potential site for housing or a major development over the past five years, and was offered for sale in 2017.

But the the state government, under former Premier Jay Weatherill, ultimately decided to give the land to the Ngarrindjeri when their native title claim over the region was settled that December.

Mr Rigney hoped the Aboriginal corporation would be able to work with the Murray Bridge council and state government to attract investment and create jobs, pending consultation with the wider Ngarrindjeri nation.

"We've been waiting for this for decades," he said.

"This is about agency; it's about building our autonomy as first people within the landscape.

"We want to create jobs and incorporate the whole of the community into this space."

The boundaries of the railway land handed back to the Ngarrindjeri. Image: Office of Adrian Pederick.

The boundaries of the railway land handed back to the Ngarrindjeri. Image: Office of Adrian Pederick.

Mr Lewis said the timing of the handover was convenient, as it would allow the council and Ngarrindjeri to work hand in hand as they planned for the future.

"As Mayor, I have been in discussion with the leadership group of the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority over many months, contemplating what this means for us as a community," he said.

"I look forward to the exciting times ahead."

Mr Pederick, too was excited about the possibilities.

"We haven't seen movement on this land for many years," he said.

The property includes seven heritage-listed cottages, but excludes the Round House and former railway buildings now used by the Murray Bridge and District Historical Society, River Murray Football League and Bridge Arts.

The area has significance to Aboriginal people because of its proximity to Murrundi, the River Murray; and to Hume Reserve, where the last Ngarrindjeri town camp stood until 1943.

Ngarrindjeri have campaigned for the reserve to be renamed Ponggi (Albert Karloan) Reserve, after one of the last elders who lived there, since 2009.

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