The Coalition Government announced today that it would improve current land rights and native title arrangements by establishing direct funding for local traditional owners and native title holders.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion, speaking at the National Native Title Conference in Darwin today, said that the Coalition would directly support local groups so that communities can make decisions themselves about the use of their land and opportunities for economic development.
“More than twenty years since the native title regime started determining the outcome of land claims, the focus is now shifting to the hopes and aspirations of local native title holders, many of whom are keen to unlock the potential of their land for economic opportunity to provide a strong future for the next generation and beyond,” the Minister said.
“For too long, native title holders and traditional owners have been reliant on governments and land councils, and have not had the resources to access the expertise to build their own capacity to engage in negotiations for commercial development.”
Under the Native Title Act, the Turnbull Coalition has already made $20.4 million over four years available for native title holding bodies (Prescribed Bodies Corporate) through the Developing Northern Australia White Paper.
“This is the first time that a specific allocation of funding has been made available for native title holders to directly access the support they need to benefit from their native title,” the Minister said.
A re-elected Turnbull Coalition will guarantee this funding for the next four years, and we will look to provide ongoing funding, to make sure that native title holders have the certainty that ongoing assistance is available to generate economic benefits through the effective and sustainable management of their land.
“In the Northern Territory, where separate arrangements apply under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, funding will be made available for traditional owners to pursue local decision making through a delegation of land council functions or community-led township leasing,” the Minister said.
“The Turnbull Coalition has reformed the way traditional owners can control their own land through reforms to the process for delegating land council functions and by introducing flexibility into township leasing. This continuing funding stream, from the Aboriginals Benefit Account, will enable traditional owners to take advantage of these new opportunities and, where they wish, use their country to build wealth for future generations.”
In addition to these reforms, an extra $1 million will be made available to the Aboriginal Land Commissioner to support the resolution of all outstanding claims in the Northern Territory as soon as possible. It’s appropriate that this many years into the process we do all we can to help settle outstanding claims to provide certainty and opportunity to traditional owners.
“A Coalition Government, with the Land Commissioner, Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government, will progress outstanding claims quickly to ensure that traditional owners are recognised as the owners of their land and can start to use their land for their own benefit,” the Minister said.
The Minister said these commitments highlight the Coalition’s resolve to work with traditional owners and communities to deliver better outcomes for First Australians.