A historic agreement has been reached with the traditional owners of Gunyangara to enter into a township lease over their community in North East Arnhem Land.
The agreement – the first to result in a lease held by an Aboriginal corporation – will deliver a range of benefits to the traditional owners and local community, including better land administration, local decision making about land-use issues and greater support for commercial development and home ownership.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion, welcomed the decision of the Full Council of the Northern Land Council to approve the Gunyangara township lease.
The community entity township lease over Gunyangara will be held by a community-controlled Aboriginal Corporation which will be responsible for the administration of subleases and licences in the community.
“This groundbreaking township lease is a tribute to the leadership, vision and strength of my friend, Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM, and his family, in particular his brothers Djawa and Balupalu,” Minister Scullion said.
“A township lease unlocks opportunities for the Gumatj people, for the community of Gunyangara and for the East Arnhem region by enabling better land administration and individual leasing that is transferable and mortgageable.
“At the request of Mr Yunupingu and the Gumatj people, the Coalition Government has worked in partnership with his community to develop a model of township leasing that will strengthen local decision making and ensure traditional owners are in the driver’s seat when it comes to decisions about their land, including for future commercial developments.
“To date, the only entity approved to hold a township lease has been the Commonwealth Executive Director of Township Leasing.
“The Labor Party under Jenny Macklin and Warren Snowdon’s watch ignored land reform and community engagement by effectively halting township lease negotiations.
“In contrast, the Turnbull Coalition has worked in partnership with the local traditional owners to progress land tenure reform and provided the flexibility and support to ensure this model works for this community.
“The Coalition is committed to doing things with Indigenous people and communities and ensuring traditional owners are empowered to achieve what they want from their land and use it in ways that work for them. This township lease has delivered on this promise.
“This is the first township lease to be approved by the Northern Land Council and I acknowledge the leadership of its Chairman, Mr Sammy Bush-Blanasi, in supporting the interests of Gunyangara traditional owners.
“This model of township leasing can be a beacon for other traditional owners across the Northern Territory who want to take on responsibility for their land and break free from current barriers in land tenure.
“At recent Garma festivals, Mr Yunupingu has called for land rights to be woken up to enable economic development and more control for his community. I am pleased to have worked side by side with the Gumatj to deliver the outcomes this community has called for.
“I am excited to see what the Gumatj can achieve and I look forward to continuing to work with them on this journey.”
Township leases are approved by the Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Affairs under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. To date, township leases have been finalised over three communities in the Tiwi Land Council region and three communities in the Anindiliyakwa Land Council region.