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Land rights legislation - Proposed amendments



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MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS

The Hon. Ian Wilson, M.P. UNDER EMBARGO: Midnight, 2 June 1902

LAND RIGHTS LEGISLATION - PROPOSED AMENIMENTS

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Wilson, announced today that the Government would introduce legislation which would give effect to a package of proposals which had been the subject of negotiation between the Northern Territory Government, the Commonwealth Government and the Aboriginal Land Councils in the Northern Territory.

The Minister said the legislation, which the Commonwealth proposed to introduce, would amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976.

Mr Wilson said, "A number of negotiating sessions involving the Land Councils, the NT Government and the Commonwealth Government had been held during the course of the last 14 months, during which a proposal had been submitted by the NT Government which provided not only for certain

amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, but also substantial amendment to the NT legislation in favour of Aboriginal interests. That proposal had been the subject of further negotiations between representatives of the parties mentioned, which resulted in the development of detailed

drafting instructions with regard to elements of the proposal requiring amendment to NT legislation".

The Minister said the package of proposals, as submitted by the NT Government, had been agreed to "in principle" by the Northern Land Council by way of resolution dated 24 August 1981 but had yet to be accepted by the Central Land Council.

The Minister said, "The Commonwealth Government is of the view that the proposal submitted by the NT Government is one designed to reduce the tension between, and polarisation of, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. More specifically, it will

substantially advantage some 2,000 or more Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, who, under existing legislation, have limited opportunity to gain secure title to areas on which they live within the boundaries of pastoral leases.

"The proposal will also provide for the recognition of prior owner­ ship by Aboriginals of the Uluru (Ayers Rock - Mt Olga) National Park by way of a grant of title to Aboriginal trustees and for that area to be declared and managed a National Park under NT legislation for the benefit and enjoyment of all Australians".

The Minister said that the amendments to the Land Rights Act would ensure that whilst existing claims over Aboriginal owned pastoral leases may proceed, no further claims would be made over pastoral leases purchased by Aboriginals in the future.

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"In order to avoid any unforeseen commercial consequences arising from these proposals, I would envisage that, when accepted by-the .'Parliament, the operative date of the relevant legislation would be 3 June 1982," the Minister said.

. Aboriginals would be able, however, to gain perpetual leasehold title to pastoral leases purchased by them on the open market. In addition, . land claims to NT National Parks, stock routes and other public purpose areas in the NT, would no longer be available for claim. In relation to Territory National Parks, however, the NT Government would negotiate arrangements with

the relevant Aboriginal Land Councils with a view to the granting of title over those Parks which are currently the subject of valid claims, to Aboriginals and to secure management participation in the operation of those Parks on a case by case basis.

The Minister said the Commonwealth was of the firm view that the total package of legislation was designed to cater for the genuine needs of the citizens of the NT, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, and it was for this reason that the Government intended, in parallel with the NT Government, to proceed as soon as practicable to introduce legislation designed to give

effect to the proposal. . .

The Minister said, "In the preparation of the legislation it is proposed that we maintain a close contact with the NT Government and the Land Councils".

c a n b e r b a /d a e v d i

2 June, 1982 . W6/82