Land

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights and interests in land are formally recognised for around 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass.

Connection to land is of central importance to Indigenous Australians. The recognition of Indigenous rights in land and waters has been fundamental to the process of reconciliation.

We are working with Indigenous Australians so that Indigenous land can become an economic asset, as well as a cultural and spiritual asset.

We are supporting Indigenous land owners and native title holders to make choices about how they maximise economic development opportunities on their land.

Land rights

The Commonwealth has direct responsibility for Land Rights in the Northern Territory through the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth).

Under this Act, traditional owners hold decision-making powers over the use of Aboriginal land. Land Councils assist traditional owners to acquire and manage their land. Royalty equivalents for mining activity on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory are paid to the Aboriginals Benefit Account. We administer this Account.

We also have a role in negotiating township leases, which are a specific type of long-term lease (up to 99 years) over communities on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Township leases can support bankable interests in land and positive economic development outcomes by providing long-term tradable tenure.

Native title

Native Title includes rights and interests that relate to land and waters held by Indigenous people under traditional laws and customs, recognised by the common law in accordance with the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

We fund a network of Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to assist native title groups across Australia. Further information and contact details are available on the Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers page.

Prescribed Bodies Corporate hold, manage and protect native title on behalf of native title holders. The Australian Government assists these bodies to maximise the social, cultural and economic potential of native title through a new grant funding process (see Grants below).

The Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for legal and legal-policy advice on the sections of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) which are the responsibility of the Attorney-General and assistance to respondents involved in native title claims. More information is available at the Attorney-General's Department website.

Economic development

We are supporting Indigenous land owners and native title holders to exercise choice in how they maximise Economic Development on their land.

The COAG Investigation into Indigenous Land Administration and Use recently looked at how governments can better support Indigenous land owners and native title holders to use their land for economic development. It recommended governments focus on:

  • gaining efficiencies and improving effectiveness in the process of recognising rights;

  • supporting bankable interests in land;

  • improving the processes for doing business on Indigenous land and land subject to native title;

  • investing in the building blocks of land administration (e.g. town planning, cadastral surveys and infrastructure); and

  • building capable and accountable land holding and representative bodies.

Grants

Among other things, the Aboriginals Benefit Account funds a biannual grants round for proposals that benefit Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

The Jobs, Land and Economy Programme assists Indigenous people to generate economic and social benefits from their land assets. This includes supporting traditional owners to make well-informed decisions about how they can utilise their land, supporting long-term tradable tenure and enabling land reform and land administration for Indigenous land owners. It also supports Indigenous people to progress land and sea claims under Commonwealth native title and land rights legislation.

PBC capacity building funding

The Department is now inviting eligible applicants to apply for PBC capacity building grant funding under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Related websites

Austrade’s Investor’s Guide to Land Tenure in Northern Australia

Key Dates & Progress

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Contact Us

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
PO Box 6500
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia

Phone: 02 6271 5111

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.