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ILC 'stocktake' report released.

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ILC 'Stocktake' Report Released

Joint Media Release with the Indigenous Land Corporation

IPS 049/2003

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Philip Ruddock today released a review of the operations of the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) and commended the organisation for its willingness to objectively assess its own performance.

Mr Ruddock said the report, Improving Outcomes from Indigenous Land Purchases, represented a comprehensive audit of the ILC's operations and identified achievements as well as opportunities to enhance the organisation's ongoing performance.

'The ILC has consistently demonstrated that it is committed to enhancing the lives of Indigenous Australians through the acquisition of land and the provision of land management assistance,' Mr Ruddock said. 'This report again demonstrates that fact.'

ILC Chairperson Shirley McPherson said the report provided an objective evaluation of the corporation's work to date as well as valuable guidance for the way forward for future land acquisition and management activities.

'The ILC has dedicated itself to providing Indigenous Australians with better and more sustainable economic and social outcomes,' Ms McPherson said.

'In line with this commitment, the ILC has undertaken this full and frank assessment of the properties it has purchased since being established in the mid-1990s, to determine whether the best results are being achieved.'

The report, developed by a project team of ILC staff and independent consultants, found that more could be done to assist many properties to reach their full potential, with cultural and social benefits proving to be uneven and difficult to measure.

There was also a significant shortfall between original predictions and the numbers of Indigenous people actually benefiting from land purchases, largely due to often unrealistic expectations and the limited capacity of both the properties and the occupants to achieve the

initial goals.

Mr Ruddock said that following a change of leadership and a reappraisal of policy and procedures, the ILC was already addressing these issues, with a major revision of the National Indigenous Land Strategy, which he launched in December last year.

'The ILC has made a number of fundamental changes to enhance the long-term and sustainable cultural, social, environmental and economic returns we are able to achieve on land purchased for Indigenous Australians,' Mr Ruddock said.

'All applications for land acquisition and land management must now be accompanied by detailed property management plans that identify clear objectives, including how applicants intend to use the land and the benefits they want from it.

'The new policy guidelines enable the ILC to assess applications based on the capacity of both the land and applicants to achieve real and long-term benefits for themselves and future generations.'

Mr Ruddock also noted that the Commonwealth Auditor-General had recently found the ILC had made significant progress in enhancing its operations and had agreed to implement further recommendations to improve aspects of its performance.

Ms McPherson explained that the revamped National Indigenous Land Strategy had established four specific criteria for purchasing land.

'Land is not acquired by the ILC unless it is clearly demonstrated that Indigenous Australians will derive environmental, economic, cultural or social benefits from it and that those benefits are sustainable,' Ms McPherson said.

Ms McPherson said the property audit report had also led the ILC to:

● Establish a Capacity Building function to support

property holders, ● Develop a National Indigenous Land Strategy

implementation framework, ● Establish a new financial information system and a

detailed property data base, and ● Establish a property-by-property Remediation

Program to address issues identified during the stocktake process.

'Under its Capacity Building function, the ILC now has in place more robust guidelines, procedures and requirements to ensure that applicants have the

necessary skills, knowledge and support to achieve the objectives of the property purchase.

'Work is also well advanced as part of the Remediation Program to address many of the property-specific improvements needed for 108 properties as identified by the stocktake report.'

Ms McPherson said that since its establishment, the ILC had purchased 161 properties involving 5.1 million hectares at a cost of $136 million, of which 110 have been divested to Indigenous corporations.

'The ILC will continue to objectively assess its work to measure its effectiveness and allow its policies to evolve to ensure our funding is achieving real and lasting benefits for Indigenous Australians,' Ms McPherson said.

Media Enquiries: Mr Ruddock's office: Jeremy Chitty 0418 971 042 ILC: James Tonkin 0413 432 775

05 July 2003