Second reading speech – Aboriginal Land Rights and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013
The Bill continues the Government’s commitment to ensuring Aboriginal people’s ongoing connection to their land is recognised, by scheduling further parcels of land as Aboriginal land.
It will benefit traditional owners, residents and business operators in Jabiru and the wider Kakadu region in the Northern Territory.
Importantly, it will also provide traditional owners with significant economic development opportunities.
The Bill adds the existing Jabiru town land and certain adjacent portions of Northern Territory land to Schedule 1 to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Related amendments are made to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
These amendments arise from the landmark agreement struck in November 2009 to resolve the Jabiru native title claim, which is the longest-running native title claim in the history of the Northern Territory.
The intention of this measure is to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between the parties to the native title claim. Importantly, this Bill recognises the traditional ownership of Jabiru by the Mirarr people.
The amendments relating to Jabiru allow for the transfer of ownership of the claimed land from the Director of National Parks to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust, which will hold the land on trust for its traditional owners.
The Jabiru town land and certain adjacent portions of Northern Territory land will be scheduled under the land rights legislation to enable the land to be granted as Aboriginal land to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust.
This Bill also provides that the land will not be granted as Aboriginal land until leaseback arrangements for the Jabiru town land and for the two adjacent non-township portions are put in place.
The Mirarr traditional owners have agreed to lease back the Jabiru land immediately, through long-term leases to be granted to the Director of National Parks, the Northern Territory and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation nominated by the Northern Land Council. The two adjacent portions of land will also be leased to the Director of National Parks.
The land that will be scheduled by this Bill will remain part of Kakadu National Park and the Kakadu World Heritage Area. The Bill provides for the preservation of Kakadu’s world heritage and other values in relation to the town. It requires the leases granted to the Northern Territory and the relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation to be consistent with the protection of those world heritage and other natural and cultural values.
The land to be leased to the Director of National Parks will be added to the Director’s existing lease of adjacent park lands from the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust.
The Bill also makes amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 relating to the proper development of Jabiru into the future in accordance with the leases, the management plan for Kakadu and a town plan approved by the Director of National Parks.
Jabiru has established itself as a thriving township that services Kakadu National Park as a tourist destination as well as the nearby Ranger uranium mine. Business operators in Jabiru have, however, expressed legitimate concerns that, given the expiration of the current headlease in 2021, the future tenure arrangements for Jabiru are unclear. This has resulted in a reluctance to invest in the town.
This Bill will provide for long-term certainty and security of land tenure for Jabiru. Importantly, for current interest-holders in Jabiru, this Bill ensures that existing leases, subleases and other interests will be preserved following transfer of ownership to the Kakadu Aboriginal Land Trust.
This Bill builds on the Government’s commitment to hand over land in the Northern Territory to its traditional owners. Since 2007, the Australian Government has handed back 42,225 square kilometres of land under the Land Rights Act, more than 12 times the area of land handed back between 2002 and 2007.
The Government is very pleased to be able to further the resolution of the Jabiru native title claim by introducing this Bill.
The Bill also adds a further parcel of land for Patta to Schedule 1 to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (2009 Measures) Act 2010 previously inserted five portions of land, known as Patta in the Northern Territory, into Schedule 1.
This new amendment will enable the further parcel of land to be granted to the relevant Aboriginal Land Trust.