Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Senator Nigel Scullion reached a historic agreement that will open up economic opportunity and home ownership for Aboriginal people in the remote Arnhem Land community of Gunbalanya in the Northern Territory.
Senator Scullion, on behalf of the Australian Government, signed a formal commitment with traditional owners to negotiate in good faith towards a 99-year township lease.
Senator Scullion signed the deal with the traditional owners at a meeting in Gunbalanya on Wednesday.
Senator Scullion and the traditional owners agreed that a township lease was the most effective way to achieve economic and commercial development in Gunbalanya.
“We need to give Aboriginal people the chance to own their own homes and run their own businesses,” Minister Scullion said.
Gunbalanya is a town of 900 people on Aboriginal land, 300km east of Darwin.
“Indigenous people have enormous land assets and these must be leveraged to create real and long-lasting benefits,” Minister Scullion said.
“These township leases are a result of the 2006 Howard Government amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. For the last six years, the former Labor government chose not to pursue these arrangements, which would have given Aboriginal people home ownership and business opportunities.
Signatories to the agreement in Gunbalanya committed to work towards finalising a 99-year lease by 30 June, 2014.
Senator Scullion praised the vision of the traditional owners and called on communities on Aboriginal Land throughout the Northern Territory to think about entering into similar arrangements with the Australian Government.
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