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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13947


Mr WYATT (HasluckMinister for Senior Australians and Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health) (17:44): I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

It is my pleasure to introduce the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2018 to the chamber. The bill demonstrates the government's commitment to recognising traditional Aboriginal ownership of land and to finalising land claims in the Northern Territory which have remained unresolved for decades. It delivers on the government's election commitment to resolve outstanding Aboriginal land claims in the Northern Territory and to work with Indigenous landowners to ensure their land rights deliver the economic opportunities that should come from owning land.

This bill gives practical effect to our commitment to working in partnership with Indigenous Australians. The government is committed to the recognition of Indigenous land through statutory land rights and native title, and we are working with traditional owners and land councils to make sure these are resolved as soon as possible.

The bill adds areas subject to four traditional land claims in the Kakadu region of the Northern Territory to schedule 1 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, the land rights act, so that the land can be granted as Aboriginal land. It also provides for the leaseback of that land to the director of national parks.

The bill also adds land that was subject to a successful native title application in the Roper River region of the Northern Territory to schedule 1 of the land rights act so that the land can be granted as Aboriginal land. Scheduling of the land is consistent with the terms of the Township of Urapunga Indigenous Land Use Agreement, executed by the native title parties and the Northern Territory government.

In addition, the bill adds land that is associated with the settlement of the Anthony Lagoon area land claim to schedule 1 of the land rights act so that the land can be granted as Aboriginal land. Scheduling of the land is consistent with the terms of the Anthony Lagoon area land claim No. 74 deed of settlement, executed by the parties associated with the land claim and the Northern Territory government.

The four land claim areas in the Kakadu region comprise approximately 50 per cent of Kakadu National Park. Title to the majority of that land is held by the director, a Commonwealth statutory office holder. Smaller land parcels subject to the land claims are Crown land held by the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth. The balance of the land in the park is already Aboriginal land and leased by the director from the Aboriginal Lands Trust, which holds title. The land claims were lodged between 1984 and 1997.

While they remain unresolved there are statutory limitations on dealing with the land. This has constrained potential developments in one of Australia's iconic tourism destinations and adds a layer of complexity to the joint management arrangements in place between traditional Aboriginal owners and the director.

The parties to the land claims have agreed to settle on the basis of the land being scheduled for grant as Aboriginal land, subject to immediate lease back to the director of as much of the land as is required to continue to form part of that park. The director is not the Crown for the purpose of the land rights act in its current form, and that would prevent the land from being granted after it is scheduled.

The bill amends the land rights act to allow deeds of grant for the land to be delivered to the Aboriginal Lands Trust and to take effect despite the interests of the director. The bill also repeals certain existing provisions of the land rights act relating to land descriptions in the Kakadu region that will be made redundant by adding the relevant land to schedule 1.

The grants of these lands is supported by stakeholders, including the Northern Territory government, the Northern Land Council and other local stakeholders. I commend the bill to the chamber.