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Thursday, 23 June 2011
Page: 7063


Ms MACKLIN (JagajagaMinister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (09:01): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill contains three non-budget measures relating to Aboriginal land rights legislation, the Indigenous Land Corporation and the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

Scheduling of land

The bill will continue the government's important program under land rights legis­lation for the Northern Territory, by adding further parcels of land to Schedule 1 to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

This will allow the land in question, which includes certain land near Borroloola, and the Port Patterson Islands, to be granted to relevant Aboriginal Land Trusts.

This measure was originally introduced in the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010, but was withdrawn during the passage of that bill to allow one of the land area measurements to be clarified. The scheduling of these parcels of land through this bill will help to resolve two long-running and complex land claims.

Indigenous Land Corporation

The bill also amends the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 in relation to the Indigenous Land Corporation established under that act.

The Indigenous Land Corporation was established shortly after the Native Title Act 1993 came into effect. In recognition that native title may not be able to be established in all cases, its functions include helping Indigenous Australians to manage land, and to buy land, to provide long-term economic development and environmental, social and cultural benefits.

The amendments contained in this bill will allow ministerial guidelines to be made that the Indigenous Land Corporation must have regard to in deciding whether to perform its functions in support of a native title settle­ment and, if it decides to perform its func­tions in support of a native title settlement, in performing its functions in support of that settlement.

Given the complex context in which native title settlements are negotiated, the guidelines should help clarify the Indigenous Land Corporation's role in supporting native title settlements by providing guidance in the exercise of its functions.

In making these amendments, the gov­ernment recognises that the Indigenous Land Corporation can assist with the resolution of native title settlements, particularly where connection to the land in question is at issue and native title may not be able to be est­ablished.

This measure was originally introduced in the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010, but was withdrawn during passage to allow time for the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Aff­airs to inquire into the measure. The com­mittee reported on 9 February 2011, and this bill gives effect to the committee's sugg­estions to clarify the measure, including by adding a definition of the term 'native title settlements'.

Torres Strait Regional Authority

Finally, the Bill also amends the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 in relation to the Torres Strait Regional Authority established under that act.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 provides for election of members to the Torres Strait Regional Authority. Presently, there is a connection between the election of members to the Torres Strait Regional Authority and the timing of Queensland local government elections. This bill removes this connection so that elections to the authority are conducted solely in accordance with the provisions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act.

The authority has commissioned a governance review of its structure and the method of appointment of its members. The bill also amends the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act to allow for a wider range of options for the composition of the authority following that review. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.