Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Application to establish a New Aboriginal Land Council in the Northern Territory

Following careful consideration of an inquiry by the former Aboriginal Land Commissioner, the Australian Government has refused an application to establish a new Aboriginal Land Council in the Northern Territory.

The application for the new Land Council sought to incorporate much of the area of the existing Northern Land Council.

Under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, I am required to make a decision on whether or not I support the establishment of this new Land Council.

This includes being satisfied that the proposed new Land Council will be able to satisfactorily perform the functions of a Land Council.

I referred the application to the former Aboriginal Land Commissioner, the Hon Justice Howard Olney AM QC, to undertake an independent inquiry.

The Commissioner consulted extensively with stakeholders, and interested parties were provided with an opportunity to provide written submissions following the release of his interim and final inquiry reports.

Having carefully considered the application, Justice Olney’s inquiry reports, and the submissions made to the inquiry, I am not satisfied that the applicants could satisfactorily perform Land Council functions.

Land Councils have significant statutory functions under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

I support the Northern Land Council’s valuable work in representing traditional owners.

However, the applicants believe their expectations are not being met under the current arrangements.

I have asked my Department, and encouraged the Northern Land Council, to meet with any applicants who wish to do so to discuss those concerns further and how they might be otherwise addressed.

The Government thanks Justice Olney for conducting this inquiry.