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Two ghost gum trees made famous by the work of Australian Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have been found burnt.
Officials in the town of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory say they believe the fire was started deliberately.
The trees had been due to be added to a national heritage register.
Indigenous leaders say that the burning of the trees is a desecration – they are regarded as living spirits in indigenous culture.
Tribal elder Baydon Williams said the loss of such a revered site was “heartbreaking”.
“Those two trees symbolised a lot of sacred areas and songlines and marking of boundaries of different skin groups and different clans,” Mr Williams said.