Aust.: Reforming the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act
Reforming the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Amanda Vanstone, today announced reforms to the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act that will position it for the demands of the 21st century.
The original Act was introduced by a Coalition Government almost 30 years ago and it is here to stay.
‘Today we are reaffirming our commitment to this important and iconic piece of legislation,’ Senator Vanstone said.
‘Inalienability, communal title and the Traditional Owner veto rights will remain unchanged. We have never considered changing these important fundamental features of the Act.
‘The Act has been successful in returning land to Aboriginal people. Around 45% of the Northern Territory is now Aboriginal land. Development on Aboriginal land, however, has been hindered by complicated and outdated provisions.
‘We are now moving into a new phase and we need a modern Act that allows Aboriginal people to realise the long term economic potential of their land.’
The key elements of the reforms are:
· Facilitating economic development
· Improving the mining provisions of the Act including devolving some powers from the Australian Government to the Northern Territory Government
· Allowing for local people to have more say over their affairs
· Moving to performance based funding for Land Councils
· Ensuring royalty payments are made in a transparent and accountable way
· Disposing of land claims which cannot legally proceed or would be inappropriate to grant.
‘There has been eight years of consultation to arrive at this point,’ Senator Vanstone said.
‘Three major reviews of the Act have enabled a narrowing of differences as all stakeholders have recognised that the Act needs to deliver better economic outcomes.’
Most of the changes come from a joint submission by the Northern Territory Government and Land Councils and other stakeholders have been involved.
‘The Land Councils have been briefed and their initial reaction appears to be generally positive. I am pleased with their constructive attitude to reform,’ Senator Vanstone said.
The Government will also schedule as Aboriginal land a series of national parks as agreed by the NT Government and Land Councils.
Changes will be made to ensure that royalty payments are put to good use in a way that provides real benefits to Aboriginal people.
‘In too many cases mining royalties have been poorly used, with local communities often feeling frustrated and impotent,’ Senator Vanstone said.
‘We will also review the appropriateness of the 4% mining withholding tax that currently applies to payments made from the Aboriginal Benefit Account.’
Senator Vanstone said remedying the deficiencies of the Act would lead to better outcomes for Traditional Owners, other Aboriginal people, the mining industry and Territorians generally.
‘After my announcement last month about providing for long term leases in townships, this announcement completes the Government’s reform agenda for the Land Rights Act,’ Senator Vanstone said.
The Government is developing legislation to put before the Parliament.