Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, today vowed to push ahead with reform to support Aboriginal people make decisions about their land and ensure the accountability of Land Councils in the Northern Territory.
“The disallowance, at the instigation of the Australian Labor Party, of a regulation which would have significantly improved accountability of the Land Councils, is a slap in the face to local Aboriginal people,” the Minister said.
“This regulation is an administrative change to existing powers under the Northern Territory Land Rights Act.
“The Act already allows for local decision making through an application to Land Councils. However, at present, there is no requirement for the Land Councils to respond to such requests. They can – and have – stymied requests for local decision making simply by not responding.
“One local Aboriginal group has been waiting more than 3 and a-half-years for a response from the Northern Land Council.
“This regulation simply outlined what information local Aboriginal corporations must include in their applications for a delegation of powers and required Land Councils to respond to these requests in a timely manner, within three months.
“This would have given local Aboriginal people confidence that they would receive a response and which could give them greater opportunity to make decisions about their own land, such as the granting of leases.
“This regulation did not diminish the role of the Land Councils. The Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation said: “The statutory authority and responsibility of the NLC is not changed by this Regulation. What the Regulation does is ensure that the NLC properly exercises that statutory responsibility on behalf of the people that it is meant to represent.”
“I am surprised that my colleague from the Northern Territory, Senator Nova Peris, does not support giving a voice to local Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory,” the Minister said.
“Land Councils still had first right to consider applications, within three months, with flexibility to seek an extension. Failure to do so then allowed applicants to apply to the Minister for a decision on the application.
“This regulation drove efficiency within Land Councils to ensure they were responsive to requests from local Aboriginal people and Indigenous corporations.
“This regulation was a practical, common sense measure about procedural fairness for Aboriginal people, which I will continue to pursue.”
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