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Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Breakthrough agreement on Aboriginal Land in the NT

Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, today welcomed the first 99 year lease over a township on Aboriginal land and praised the town’s elders for their vision and determination.

“An historic agreement has been reached with the Mantiyupwi people for the lease of the town of Nguiu on the Tiwi Islands, in the Northern Territory,” the Minister said.

“The Mantiyupwi land owners want their town to offer the same opportunities enjoyed by people who live in other Australian towns.

“They want to open the way for people to start businesses, own their own homes and be part of the Australian economy.

“The traditional owners will still hold the underlying title. But as they have told me, this agreement means for the first time, their traditional ownership of the land will be recognised with financial compensation from other people using the township.

“They are delighted that for the first time they have what most other Australians take for granted – real property rights. Not only that, the other residents will be able to take out a sub lease which will give them property rights for the first time. So everyone is a winner from this agreement. There are no losers and this is why this agreement is so significant.

“For the first time, the people of Nguiu will be able to buy a house and own a piece of land.”

A package of benefit for Tiwi people includes the construction of 25 additional houses at Nguiu together with a programme of homes repairs and maintenance, and an additional $1 million to be invested in health initiatives.

People at Nguiu will also have access to the Home Ownership on Indigenous Land Programme which provides low interest loans and other assistance to people wanting to buy or build their own home.

“After more than 30 years of Land Rights, the Howard Government has delivered to Aboriginal people the chance of home ownership on Aboriginal land,” the Minister said.

“Work will also progress on the previously announced building of the Tiwi Secondary College and an upgrade of Stanley Tipiloura Football Ground. Mr Brough paid tribute to vision of the traditional owners.

“I am delighted that Nguiu is the first community to take advantage of 99 year leasing,” Mr Brough said.

“The vision and commitment of the traditional owner is an inspiration. The Howard Government is determined to support Aboriginal people, who like the Mantuyupwi, work for economic independence.”

The formal grant of the 99 year lease will proceed once the Tiwi Land Council completes the steps set out in the Land Rights Act to confirm the agreement of traditional owners, consult with other community residents and ensure the lease is appropriate.

The 99 year lease will be held by a new Commonwealth statutory officer – the Executive Director of Township Leasing which will issue sub leases, collect rent and administer the head lease.