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Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2015

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2013-2014-2015

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS (NORTHERN TERRITORY) AMENDMENT BILL 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVISED EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by the authority of the

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Senator Nigel Scullion)

 

THIS EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM TAKES ACCOUNT OF AMENDMENTS MADE BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO THE BILL AS INTRODUCED

 

 



 



ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS (NORTHERN TERRITORY) AMENDMENT BILL 2015

 

 

OUTLINE 

 

The Bill amends the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (the Land Rights Act) in four ways: to better facilitate delegation of Land Council functions to Aboriginal corporations; to allow the Executive Director of Township Leasing, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to hold a sublease of Aboriginal land;   to enable the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to vary administrative areas of Land Councils where the relevant Land Councils so request; and, to add to Schedule 1 of the Land Rights Act three parcels of land, enabling future grants of Aboriginal land.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

 

The measures in the Bill have nil or negligible financial impact.

 

REGULATORY IMPACT STATEMENT

 

The Office of Best Practice Regulation has advised that a regulatory impact statement is not required.

 

STATEMENT OF COMPATABILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

The statement of compatibility with human rights appears at the end of this explanatory memorandum.



 

 

 



ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS (NORTHERN TERRITORY) AMENDMENT BILL 2015

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1 - Short title

 

Clause 1 sets out how the new Act is to be cited, that is, as the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 2015

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

Clause 2 provides that sections 1 to 3 of the new Act will commence on the day the new Act receives the Royal Assent. Schedule 1 of the new Act will commence the day after the new Act receives the Royal Assent.

 

Clause 3 - Schedule(s)

 

Clause 3 provides that legislation that is specified in a Schedule is amended or repealed as set out in that Schedule.



Schedule 1 - Amendments

 

Summary

 

The Bill makes four amendments to the Land Rights Act.

 

Delegation of Land Council functions and powers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations

 

The Bill alters the list of delegable functions and powers to include roads over Aboriginal land and access agreement matters, and provides that other functions and powers associated with the delegation can be delegated.

 

The Bill provides additional requirements for a corporation when making an application for a delegation, or to vary the functions and powers delegated to it. A six month timeframe for a Land Council to consider an application for delegation or variation of delegation is included, which can be extended by written agreement of the applicant corporation.

 

The Bill will require applications to a Land Council for a delegation or variation of a delegation be provided to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

 

The Bill repeals section 28C to remove the Minister’s ability to override a Land Council’s decision not to delegate functions or powers. Section 28D, which restricts a Land Council from exercising functions or powers once they have been delegated, is also repealed.

 

The Bill also provides that a delegate corporation can be required to provide reasons for its decisions if requested by any person or body affected by the decision.

 

Subleases of Aboriginal Land to the Executive Director of Township Leasing

 

The Bill provides that the Executive Director of Township Leasing (Executive Director) may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, hold a sublease of some or all of a parcel of Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. The Executive Director may transfer this sublease of Aboriginal land to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation to hold, and that corporation may transfer the sublease back to the Executive Director. Such transfers are to be in accordance with the terms and conditions of the sublease.

 

The Bill also allows for the Minister to direct that funds from the Aboriginals Benefit Account be paid in relation to the acquisition and administration of the sublease by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation.

 

Likewise, the Bill will allow the Minister to direct that funds from the Aboriginals Benefit Account be paid in relation to the transfer back of the sublease to the Executive Director.

 

Changes to Land Council administrative areas

 

The Bill inserts a provision allowing the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to vary Northern Territory Land Council areas at the written request of the relevant Land Councils.

 

Addition of land to Schedule 1

The Bill also adds parcels of land in the Wickham River area, in the Simpson Desert and in the Vernon Islands to Schedule 1 of the Land Rights Act. This will enable the parcels of land to be granted as Aboriginal land to the relevant Aboriginal Land Trusts.

 

Background

 

Land Councils have been able to delegate their functions and powers to Aboriginal corporations since 2006, however, no such delegations have been made. The ability for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to override a decision by a Land Council not to delegate functions or powers, and the inability of a Land Council to exercise functions or powers once they have been delegated have been a deterrent for applicants and Land Councils alike. The Bill repeals those sections, and also provides clearer parameters for applications, clarity about which functions and powers are delegable, transparency of the application process and timeframes for processing applications.

The Bill would bring the delegation of Land Council functions and powers in the Land Rights Act in line with standard practice in delegation arrangements and improve the process for delegations to ensure they can be used in the future.

The community of Mutitjulu is located on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory and in 1985 was leased by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Aboriginal Land Trust to the Director of National Parks. The current lease expires in 2084.  

 

Because of the nature of the lease to the Director of National Parks, tenure arrangements in Mutitjulu are irregular, uncertain, and inconsistent with other communities on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. In order to facilitate a resolution to this issue, the Bill will make provision for a sublease of Aboriginal land to be held by the Executive Director of Township Leasing.

 

This will make it possible for the Executive Director to enter and administer a sublease over Mutitjulu, if agreed. The Bill will also allow the Executive Director to transfer that sublease to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation.

 

The Bill will make provision for funds to be paid from the Aboriginals Benefit Account for the purpose of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation acquiring and administering a sublease (the sublease having been acquired from the Executive Director). The Bill makes provision for this in section 64(4A) in the same way as it does for the Executive Director.   

 

The Land Rights Act does not clearly allow for variation between Land Councils of their existing administrative areas. These amendments will allow for this to occur if the relevant Land Councils request the variation. This would enable the implementation of agreed settlement arrangements for the Vernon Islands Land Claim, which require the transfer of the land subject to claim from the jurisdiction of the Northern Land Council to the jurisdiction of the Tiwi Land Council, and any similar agreements which arise in the future.

By adding further parcels of Northern Territory land to Schedule 1 to the Land Rights Act, the parcels of land in question will be able to be granted to the relevant Aboriginal Land Trusts under sections 10 and 12 of the Land Rights Act.

 

Northern Territory Portion 4208 is approximately 110,000 hectares and forms part of the Simpson Desert and is contiguous with existing Aboriginal land in Central Australia already held by two Aboriginal Land Trusts.

 

The inclusion of Northern Territory Portion 4208 in Schedule 1, accords with the comments contained in the Addendum to the April 2009 Report and Recommendations of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in relation to the Simpson Desert Land Claim.

 

Northern Territory Portion 7236 is approximately 50,310 hectares and includes the community of Yarralin on the banks of the Wickham River.

The inclusion of Northern Territory Portion 7236 in Schedule 1 accords with settlement arrangements for the Wickham River Land Claim No. 76 agreed between the Northern Territory Government and the Northern Land Council.  

 

As part of settlement of Vernon Islands Land Claim No. 9, the amendments will add Northern Territory Portions 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 (Vernon Islands) to Schedule 1 of the Land Rights Act for subsequent grant as Aboriginal land.

 

Explanation of the changes

 

Schedule 1 - Amendments

 

Part 1 - Amendments

 

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976

 

Item 1 - Division 2 of Part IIA (heading)

Item 1 repeals the heading and replaces it with the heading ‘Division 2-Functions of the Executive Director etc’ to reflect the fact that this Division covers more than just the functions of the Executive Director.

Item 2 - After paragraph 20C(ad)

Item 2 inserts a new paragraph 20C(ae) to expand the functions of the Executive Director and allow the Executive Director to administer subleases acquired by the Commonwealth under the new subsection 20CB(2), inserted at Item 6 below.

Item 3 - Section 20CA (heading)

Item 3 repeals the heading and replaces it with the heading ‘20CA Executive Director to hold leases and subleases on behalf of the Commonwealth’. The specific references to community living areas and town camps have been removed, reflecting the fact that section 20CA will now extend to Aboriginal land - see Item 4 below.

Item 4 - At the end of subsection 20CA(1)

Item 4 inserts a new paragraph 20CA(1)(e) which allows the Minister to agree to the Executive Director, on behalf of the Commonwealth, entering into and administering a sublease of Aboriginal land.

Item 5 - After subsection 20CA(4)

Item 5 inserts two new subsections which seek firstly, to put beyond doubt  the ability of the proprietor of Aboriginal land (referred to in the new paragraph inserted in Item 3) to be the Director of National Parks; and secondly, to put beyond doubt that the lease referred to in the new paragraph inserted in Item 4 can be a township lease granted under section 19A.

 

Item 6 - At the end of Division 2 of Part IIA

Item 6 inserts a new section 20CB entitled ‘Transfer of subleases’. Subsection 20CB(1) allows the Executive Director to transfer a sublease of Aboriginal land which it holds on behalf of the Commonwealth to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation. The transfer is to be in accordance with the terms and conditions of the sublease.

Subsection 20CB(2) allows the Executive Director to acquire a sublease (by way of transfer) from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation, if the sublease was transferred to the corporation under subsection 20CB(1), provided the transfer is in accordance with the terms and conditions of the sublease.

Item 7 - Division 6 of Part IIA (heading)

Item 7 repeals the heading and replaces it with the heading ‘Division 6-Effect on other laws in relation to certain leases or subleases held by Executive Director’. The words ‘held by’ are generic in nature and will encompass direct grants and transfers.

Item 8 - After subsection 20S(2)

Item 8 inserts a new subsection 20S(2A) which, together with section 3C, ensures the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 does not apply to the acquisition of a sublease by the Executive Director (on behalf of the Commonwealth) in accordance with new subsection 20CB(2).   

NB: For the purposes of Item 5 above, the authorisation for:

·          the Director of National Parks to grant a sublease is found in section 358 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 ;

·          a Commonwealth authority, that holds a section 19A township lease, is found in subsection 19A(16).

Item 9 - After subsection 20S(3)

Item 9 inserts a new subsection 20S(3A) which, together with section 3C, ensures the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 does not apply to the disposal of a sublease by the Executive Director (on behalf of the Commonwealth) in accordance with new subsection 20CB(1).  

 

Item 10 - At the end of section 20S

Item 10 inserts a new subsection 20S(6) which, together with section 3C,ensures the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 does not apply where the Executive Director (on behalf of the Commonwealth) grants a right or interest deriving from a sublease acquired under subsection 20CB(2).  .

Item 11 - Section 20SA (heading)

Item 11 repeals the heading and replaces it with the heading ‘20SA Modification of certain NT laws in relation to leases or subleases held by Executive Director ’. The words ‘held by’ are generic in nature and will encompass direct grants and transfers .

Item 12 - At the end of subsection 20SA(1)

Item 12 inserts a new paragraph 20SA(1)(c) so that section 20SA applies to the transfer of a sublease to the Commonwealth under subsection 20CB(2) as inserted above at Item 6.  Section 20SA includes provisions on the application of Northern Territory laws to the transfer of sublease. The relevant laws are laws in relation to taxes (stamp duty and or similar taxes), registration of the instrument of transfer and subdivision of land.

Item 13 - At the end of subsection 20SA(2)

Item 13 adds the words “or transfer, as the case may be” as a consequence of the amendment in Item 12.

Item 14 - Subsection 20SA(3)

Item 14 inserts the words “or the instrument of transfer, as the case may be” as a consequence of the amendment in Item 12.

Item 15 - At the end of subsection 20SA(4)

Item 15 adds the words “ of the lease or sublease, or the transfer of the sublease, as the case may be ” as a consequence of the amendment in Item 12.

Item 16 - Section 20SB (heading)

Item 16 repeals the heading and replaces it with the heading ‘20SB Modification of certain NT laws in relation to land the subject of leases or subleases held by Executive Director ’. The words ‘held by’ are generic in nature and will encompass direct grants and transfers .

 

Item 17 - At the end of subsection 20SB(1)

Item 17 inserts a new paragraph 20SB(1)(c) so that section 20SB applies to a sublease acquired by the Commonwealth by way of transfer under subsection 20CB(2) as inserted above at Item 6.

Item 17A - After section 21D

 

Item 17A inserts a new provision which allows the Minister, at the request of the relevant Land Councils, to vary the boundaries of the Land Councils. The two affected Land Councils can give joint written notice to the Minister to request a variation of boundaries to have an area of land cease to be in the area of one Council and become part of the area of the other. A Land Council must not make a request unless the traditional owners of the land in the area have understood the variation and consent as a group, and any Aboriginal community that may be affected has had an opportunity to express a view on the variation to the Land Council.

The primary decision in relation to the variation of Land Council boundaries is made by the Land Councils themselves in determining whether to request the variation. The Minister’s role in considering the request of the Land Councils is consistent with other mechanisms within the Act relating to significant proposals whereby the Land Council makes the primary decision, and the Minister’s consent, approval or action is required to carry out the proposed action.

An instrument varying the boundaries of the Land Councils under the new provision will operate as an application of the law to the particular case rather than a decision which alters the content of the law itself. As such, the new provision clarifying that such an instrument is not a legislative instrument is a declaratory provision to assist the reader rather than one which operates as a substantive exemption from the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 .

Item 17B - After paragraph 28(1)(c)

Item 17B inserts a new paragraph which will prevent a Land Council from delegating to its Council Chair or a Council member of staff the power to make a request under the new section 21E (variation of Land Council boundaries).

Item 17C - Before paragraph 28(2)(a)

Item 17C inserts a new paragraph which will prevent a Land Council from delegating to a Council Committee the power to make a request under the new section 21E (variation of Land Council boundaries).

 

Item 17D - At the end of paragraph 28(3)(b)

Item 17D amends paragraph 28(3)(b) to continue to allow for functions and powers under section 19 of the Land Rights Act to be delegated, but to except functions and powers in subsection 19(4). Subsection 19(4) allows a Land Council to direct a Land Trust to transfer to another Land Trust, or surrender to the Crown, the whole of the Land Trust’s estate or interest in the whole, or any part of, the land vested in it.

Item 17E - At the end of subsection 28(3)

Item 17E inserts two new paragraphs which allow the Land Council to delegate to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation its powers and functions under sections 68 (about roads over Aboriginal land) and 70(4) (about access agreements) of the Land Rights Act.

Two paragraphs are also inserted which enable a Land Council to delegate to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation any of its other functions and powers to the extent that they are associated with the performance of a delegated function or exercise of the delegated power.

So, for example, where a Land Council delegates to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation a function or power under section 28(3)(b) (about dealings with interests in land by Land Trusts) the Land Council is also able to delegate to the corporation the function of negotiating with parties the terms and conditions of an estate or interest in the land.

Item 17F - Paragraph 28A(2)(b)

Item 17F inserts wording in paragraph 28A(2)(b) to provide a definition of ‘the relevant part’ of a Land Council’s area over which a proposed delegation would apply for reference in other sections of the Land Rights Act.

Item 17G - After paragraph 28A(2)(b)

Item 17G inserts paragraphs which provide further information which an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation making application for a delegation of Land Council functions or powers must include in its application.

Item 17H - At the end of subsection 28A(2)

Item 17H inserts paragraphs which require an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation to provide copies of certain additional reports with an application for a delegation of Land Council functions or powers.

 

 

Item 17J - After subsection 28A(2)

Item 17J inserts a paragraph requiring a Land Council which receives an application for a delegation under section 28A to provide a copy of the application to the Minister.

Item 17K - Subsection 28A(4) (note)

Item 17K repeals the note in subsection 28A(4) as it refers to a section which is to be repealed below, in Item 17S.

Item 17L - Subsections 28A(5) and (6)

Item 17L repeals the current subsections 28A(5) and (6) ( Deemed Refusal) . The Item inserts two new subsections, headed Time Limit , which require a Land Council that has received an application for a delegation under section 28A to take all reasonable steps to make a decision within six months of the application or within a longer period if agreed with the applicant; and requires a Land Council to notify the Minister in writing of any agreement for a longer period to consider the application.

Item 17M - Subsections 28B(1) to (3)

Item 17M repeals the current subsections 28B(1) through (3) which allow for delegations to be revoked only at the request of the corporation that holds the delegation. They are replaced with subsections (1) and (2) which allow a Land Council to, in writing, vary or revoke a delegation in place under subsection 28(3) either at its own initiative or by request of the corporation holding the delegation. The Land Council is required to consult with the corporation holding the delegation before varying or revoking a delegation on its own initiative.

Item 17N - Subsection 28B(4)

Item 17N inserts wording to specify that the ability for a corporation to apply for a variation of a delegation under this section applies only to delegations in relation to the corporation that are in force under subsection 28(3).

Item 17P - After subsection 28B(4)

Item 17P inserts paragraphs which prescribe information and documents which an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation must include in its application for a variation to a delegation of Land Council functions or powers. This replicates the information and documents required for an application for a delegation to be inserted at Items 17G and 17H above.

Paragraphs are also inserted that allow a Land Council to exempt a corporation from complying with any of the requirements for an application, and to require the Land Council to provide a copy of the application to the Minister.

Item 17Q - Subsection 28B(5) (note)

Item 17Q repeals the note in subsection 28B(5) as it refers to a section which is to be repealed below, in Item 17S.

Item 17R - Subsections 28B(6) to (11)

Item 17R repeals the current subsections 28B(6) through (11) which state that a Land Council is taken to have refused an application to vary or revoke a delegation if a certain time has elapsed, provides for Ministerial approval of variation and revocation of section 28(3) delegations, and allows the Minister to vary or revoke section 28(3) delegations by direction.

They are replaced with new subsections (6) and (7) which require a Land Council that has received an application to vary or revoke a delegation to take all reasonable steps to make a decision on the application within six months of the application or within a longer period as agreed with the applicant; and requires the Land Council to notify the Minister in writing of any agreement for a longer period to consider the application.

Item 17S - Section 28C

Item 17S repeals section 28C that allows the Minister to agree to a section 28(3) delegation or variation to a section 28(3) delegation if a Land Council refuses or has been taken to refuse an application for a delegation or variation of a delegation.

Item 17T - Section 28D

Item 17T repeals section 28D that prevents a Land Council from performing functions or exercising powers that have been delegated to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation.

Item 17U - At the end of section 28F

Item 17U inserts paragraphs which require a corporation which makes a decision under a section 28 delegation to provide a statement of reasons for the decision, if requested by a person or body affected by the decision, and to provide a copy of the statement of reasons to the relevant Land Council.

Item 18 - After paragraph 64(4A)(ad)

Item 18 inserts new paragraphs 64(4A)(ae) and (af) which provide for the Aboriginals Benefit Account to be used for payments in relation to the acquiring and administering of a sublease by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation where the sublease is acquired pursuant to subsection 20CB(1).  



Likewise, new paragraphs 64(4A)(ag) and (ah) provide for the Aboriginals Benefit Account to be used for payments in relation to the acquiring and administering of a sublease by the Executive Director (on behalf of the Commonwealth) where the sublease is acquired pursuant to subsection 20CB(2) .

Item 19 - Part 4 of Schedule 1 (after the item relating to Rockhampton Downs)

Item 19 amends Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Land Rights Act by inserting a reference to an additional portion of land (Northern Territory Portion 4208 delineated on Survey Plan S.2010/156) in the Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory as land to be granted as Aboriginal land.

 

Item 19A - Part 4 of Schedule 1 (after the item relating to Urrpantyenye)

Item 19A amends Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Land Rights Act by inserting a reference to additional portions of land (Northern Territory Portions 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 delineated on Survey Plan S.2015/208 ) on and around the Vernon Islands in the Northern Territory to enable the land to be granted as Aboriginal land.

Item 20 - At the end of Part 4 of Schedule 1

Item 20 amends Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Land Rights Act by adding a reference to an additional portion of land (Northern Territory Portion 7236 delineated on Survey Plans S.2013/177A to F) in the Wickham River area of the Northern Territory as land to be granted as Aboriginal land.

 

Part 2—Application and transitional provisions

 

Item 21 - Application of amendments etc.—delegation by Land Council

Item 21 inserts paragraphs that specify that the amendments made in Items 17F to 17J to subsections 28A(2) (additional information and documents to be included in an application for a delegation) and (2A) (Land Council must give copy of delegation application to the Minister) of the Land Rights Act apply to applications made after the commencement of these items. This Item also applies requirements equivalent to subsection 28A(2) (additional information and documents to be included in an application for a delegation) to undecided applications made within 12 months before the commencement of the amendments, such that the delegation applicants will need to provide the prescribed additional information or documents to the Land Council after commencement of the amendments unless the applicant has already provided the additional information and documents to the Land Council.

 

Item 22 - Application of amendments etc.—variation of delegation by Land Council

Item 22 inserts paragraphs that specify that the amendments made in Items 17N and 17P to subsections 28B(4) to (4C) of the Land Rights Act (re applications for variation of a delegation) apply to applications made after the commencement of these items. The Item also applies requirements equivalent to subsection 28B(4A) to undecided applications made within the 12 months before the commencement of the amendments, such that the amendment applicant will need to provide the prescribed additional information or documents to the Land Council after commencement of the amendments unless the applicant has already provided the additional information and documents to the Land Council. The Item also provides that the Land Council may exempt the corporation from the need to provide some or all of the additional prescribed information.

 

Item 23 - Delegation by Land Council

Item 23 inserts paragraphs which ensure that the continuity of any delegations in regards to section 19 (about dealings with interests in land by Land Trusts) that are in force immediately before the commencement of these amendments is not affected, but specifies that the Land Council’s power under section 19(4) of the Land Rights Act is no longer included in that delegation.



 

 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2015

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

 

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2015 (the Bill) will make four amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (the Land Rights Act).

Delegation of Land Council functions and powers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations

 

The Bill alters the list of delegable functions and powers to include roads over Aboriginal land and access agreement matters, and provide that other functions and powers associated with the delegation can be delegated.

 

The Bill provides additional requirements for a corporation when making an application for a delegation, or to vary the functions and powers delegated to it. A six month timeframe for a Land Council to consider an application for delegation or variation of delegation is included, which can be extended by written agreement of the applicant corporation.

 

The Bill will require applications to a Land Council for a delegation or variation of a delegation be provided to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

 

The Bill repeals section 28C to remove the Minister’s ability to override a Land Council’s decision not to delegate functions or powers. Section 28D, which restricts a Land Council from exercising functions or powers once they have been delegated, is also repealed.

 

The Bill also provides that a delegate corporation can be required to provide reasons for its decision if requested by any person or body affected by the decision.

 

 

 

 

 

Subleases of Aboriginal Land to the Executive Director of Township Leasing

 

The Bill amends the Land Rights Act to expand the functions of the Executive Director of Township Leasing by allowing it, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to hold a sublease of Aboriginal land.

 

The Bill will facilitate a resolution of the irregular and uncertain tenure arrangements in the community of Mutitjulu, due to its location on Aboriginal land leased to the Director of National Parks. By allowing for the Executive Director of Township Leasing to hold a sublease of Aboriginal land the Bill will support growth and investment in Mutitjulu, and provide the community with the same opportunities as other remote communities in the Northern Territory. By enabling the sublease to be transferred to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation the Bill empowers communities to make decisions about their land.

 

The Bill provides that the Executive Director of Township Leasing may transfer a sublease of Aboriginal land to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation, and for that corporation to transfer that sublease back to the Executive Director of Township Leasing. Such transfers are to be in accordance with the terms and conditions of the sublease.

 

The Bill allows for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to direct that funds from the Aboriginals Benefit Account be paid in relation to the acquisition and administration of the sublease by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation. The Bill allows for the Minister to direct that funds from the Aboriginals Benefit Account be paid in relation to the transfer back of the sublease to the Executive Director of Township Leasing.

 

Changes to Land Council administrative areas

 

The Bill inserts a provision allowing the Minister for Indigenous Affairs to vary Northern Territory Land Council areas at the written request of the relevant Land Councils.

 

Addition of land to Schedule 1

 

The Bill also adds parcels of land in the Wickham River area, in the Simpson Desert and in the Vernon Islands to Schedule 1 of the Land Rights Act.  This will enable the parcels of land to be granted as Aboriginal land to the relevant Aboriginal Land Trusts.

 

Limited exposure drafts of the Bill and the Government amendments to the Bill were provided to all four Northern Territory Land Councils for consultation, and to the Northern Territory Government.

 

Human rights implications

 

This Bill engages and advances the right to self-determination (recognised in article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

The Bill engages and advances the right of Indigenous peoples to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands (recognised in paragraph 1 of article 32 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).

This Bill promotes self-determination and decision-making by relevant Aboriginal people over matters that materially affect them, including land ownership, land use and development and leasing.

The Bill amends the Land Rights Act the long title of which is ‘An Act providing for the granting of Traditional Aboriginal Land in the Northern Territory for the benefit of Aboriginals, and for other purposes’.

The Land Rights Act is a special law that confers rights and privileges upon Aboriginal Australians. The law is intended, for the purposes of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 , to be a special measure for the advancement and protection of Aboriginal peoples.

 

Conclusion

 

This Bill is compatible with human rights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Senator Nigel Scullion