Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

New Aboriginal Land Commissioner for the Northern Territory

The Australian Government has appointed the Hon. Justice John Mansfield AM QC as the new Aboriginal Land Commissioner for the Northern Territory.

Justice Mansfield will be responsible for several important functions associated with the operation of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, including the conduct of any formal inquiries into Aboriginal land claims.

Justice Mansfield has extensive experience in Aboriginal land matters in the Northern Territory, particularly through his work hearing native title applications under the Native Title Act 1993.

Justice Mansfield has been the docket judge in the Northern Territory and South Australia since 2003, and has been the Chair of the Native Title Coordinating Committee of the Federal Court since 2008.

Justice Mansfield was first appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 1996 and is also an Additional Judge of the Supreme Court in the Northern Territory.

The Australian Government also recognises the extensive contribution made by the outgoing Aboriginal Land Commissioner, the Hon Justice Howard Olney AM QC, who will finish his term at the end of this year.

Justice Olney’s hard work and commitment in resolving land claims has resulted in many achievements. This includes the recent conclusion of the Simpson Desert Land Claim IV, which resulted in Aboriginal freehold title to nearly 18,000 square kilometres of land in the Simpson Desert being handed to its Eastern Arrente traditional owners in June this year.

This was one of the largest and longest running land rights claims in Central Australia.

Justice Olney is highly respected for his work in Indigenous land issues and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005 for his services to the law and the judiciary.

He has had several appointments as Aboriginal Land Commissioner totalling more than 13 years.

He will work with Justice Mansfield over the next few weeks to assist in a smooth transition between the two appointments.

Justice Olney also undertook numerous inquiries and consultations during his tenure as Aboriginal Land Commissioner.

The Minister has asked Justice Olney to continue his current assessment of the application to establish a new Aboriginal Land Council in the Katherine region. The Minister will make a decision on this application after she has received the final report from Justice Olney.

Justice Mansfield has been appointed until June 2013.