Bills Digest 31 1996-97 Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1996


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest is prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments.

This Digest was available from 17 September 1996.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1996

Date Introduced: 26 June 1996
House: Senate
Portfolio: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
Commencement: Royal Assent

Purpose

To add three parcels of land to those granted to Aboriginal Land Trusts in the Northern Territory for the benefit of the traditional Aboriginal owners.

Background

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cwlth) (the Principal Act) provides a mechanism for the grant of traditional Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory to Land Trusts who hold title for the benefit of the traditional Aboriginal owners. In general, traditional land claims can be made to either unalienated Crown land outside a town, or land outside a town in which all the estates and interests not held by the Crown are held by, or on behalf of, Aboriginals.

Title

As a general rule, where land is granted following a traditional land claim, the title is held by an Aboriginal Land Trust in fee simple. This is the most complete and secure form of title to land and is granted by the GovernorGeneral on the recommendation of the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

Although a "fee simple" title usually means freehold ownership a title clear of any condition, limitation or restrictions the Principal Act is actually prescriptive about the ways in which a Land Trust can deal with or dispose of any estate or interest in land vested in it. By way of example, Aboriginal land cannot be sold by the Land Trust holding title to it, though it can be transferred to another Land Trust or surrendered to the Crown (the Commonwealth or the Northern Territory). Furthermore, although Aboriginal Land cannot be resumed, compulsorily acquired or forfeited under any law of the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth could acquire it by virtue of its constitutional power to acquire property for any purpose in respect of which the Commonwealth Parliament has power to make laws.

Title to Aboriginal land is also subject to a reservation that the right to any minerals remains with the Crown. In addition, the Principal Act preserves a variety of interests in, and uses of, land which became (or may become) Aboriginal land. For example, any road over which the public has a right of way is expressly excluded from the grant.

However, the Principal Act also creates rights in the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land to control other uses of the land. It also requires that anyone wishing to explore for minerals or acquire mining interests over land granted to indigenous owners must negotiate with the appropriate land council and may not directly approach the traditional owners.

Settlement of Land Claims

Under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 land claims are lodged with the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. The Commissioner is a statutory office holder whose functions include inquiring into and reporting on traditional land claims made by Aboriginal people.(1)

When a land claim has been made under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, a settlement is sometimes reached by agreement between the Northern Territory Government and the relevant Land Council.(2) In such cases, the Aboriginal Land Commissioner's office is asked to adjourn the land claim until the land can be scheduled under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and an approach is made to the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs asking for the land to be scheduled. Land which is added to the Schedule becomes Aboriginal land under the Principal Act. Once scheduling has occurred, then no further inquiry by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner is needed.

Bauhinia Downs

The Bauhinia Downs Land Claim (No.150) was received by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in September 1994. In May 1995, the Commissioner's Office was notified that the claim had been settled by agreement on 19 May 1995 between the claimants, the Northern Land Council and the Attorney-General for the Northern Territory.(3) The parcel of land involves an area of about 1449 square kilometres.

Brumby Plains

The Brumby Plains Station Land Claim (No.149) was received by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in August 1994. The claim was settled by agreement between the Northern Territory Government, the claimants and the Central Land Council(4) on 7 November 1995. The parcel of land comprises an area of about 117,000 hectares.

Western Desert (North) Locality

This claim is a repeat land claim. The claim was originally lodged in 1978 (Land Claim No.27). It was settled by agreement between the Northern Territory Government, the claimants and the Central Land Council(5) on 23 May 1996. The parcel of land is about 239,200 hectares.

Main Provisions

The Schedule to the Bill adds three parcels of land to Schedule 1 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. These parcels of land are Bauhinia Downs, Brumby Plains and Western Desert (North) Locality.

Endnotes

  1. Section 50(1), Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
  2. Land Councils are established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The traditional owners instruct the Land Councils and through the Land Councils, the Land Trusts.
  3. Explanatory Memorandum, Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1996.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Jennifer Norberry Ph. 06 277 2476
17 September 1996
Bills Digest Service
Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

PRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9032
© Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1996.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 16 September 1996

Back to top


Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print