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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2319

(Question No. 874)

Senator Kilgariff asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 4 May 1984:

(1) Are the Aboriginal land councils in the Northern Territory seeking direct control of the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account (ABTA), an account to which the Government allocates 30 per cent of royalties it has received from uranium and bauxite mining on Aboriginal land, with the remaining royalties split so that 40 per cent goes to the land councils and 30 per cent to Aboriginals in mining areas.

(2) Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs received requests from the land councils that they be given total control of the ABTA funds.

(3) Does the Government believe that sufficient funds are meeting the grass roots requirements of Aboriginal living in remote areas in the light of the considerable cost of administering land councils, due to increased staffing and increasing numbers of organisations and more of these organisations seeking funding.

(4) Has the ABTA currently $6.9m in reserve; if so, why hasn't this money been allocated to Aboriginal communities in remote areas of the Northern Territory where more funds are required for housing, schools, health centres, water bores and other such facilities.

Senator Ryan —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes. The ABTA is a trust account into which the Commonwealth pays out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund amounts equal to the amount of any royalties received by the Commonwealth or the Northern Territory in respect of mining on Aboriginal land. In accordance with section 64 of the Aboriginal Land Rights ( Northern Territory) Act 1976, the money in the ABTA is apportioned as follows:

40 per cent for the administration of land councils in the Northern Territory;

30 per cent to the land councils for distribution to Aboriginal councils, incorporated Aboriginal communities or groups in areas affected by mining; and

the remaining 30 per cent to be applied for the benefit of Aboriginals living in the Northern Territory, for ABTA administrative expenses and for supplementary payments to land councils.

(2) Yes.

(3) It will be some years before all the needs of the Aboriginals in the Northern Territory are satisfied.

(4) As at 11 May 1984, the ABTA had net funds of $7,787,932.72. However, the total value of applications for funds currently with the ABTA Secretariat exceeds this amount.

The allocation of money from the ABTA is on the recommendation of the all- Aboriginal Trust Account Advisory Committee. The Committee has a policy of not supporting funding applications for housing, schools, health centres, water bores and other areas where the functional responsibility falls squarely with a Government agency, unless the applicant has already made an unsuccessful formal approach to those funding agencies.

It is worth restating that it has never been the policy of past or present governments to deny normal Government services to Aboriginal communities simply because they had some income entitlement from mining development.