Land and Sea
The Northern Territory Government (NTG) has developed an Aboriginal Land and Sea Action Plan to better coordinate Aboriginal land and native title matters across the Northern Territory (NT), and ensure land and sea ownership to delivers on the economic and social aspirations of Aboriginal Territorians.
The Action Plan contains 10 Actions the NTG wants to implement in partnership with Traditional Owners, land councils, the Commonwealth Government and other affected stakeholders:
- Resolve all outstanding land claims;
- Resolve Blue Mud Bay fishing access arrangements
- Progress the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s recommended changes to Part IV of the Land Rights Act, which relates to exploration and mining on Aboriginal land;
- Develop an NTG Native Title Policy Framework;
- Develop a strategic approach to tenure and other issues in mining towns that will eventually become Aboriginal land;
- Work to enhance the opportunities for long-term leasing on Aboriginal land;
- Support the management of Aboriginal land;
- Support economic development and employment on Aboriginal land;
- Make improvements to NT legislation and administrative processes; and
- Continue to work with land councils to collect, collate and publish (on the Northern Territory Land Information System) non-confidential information about rights and interests granted in Aboriginal land in order to protect those interests and to provide certainty and transparency for all stakeholders
Actions range from resolving outstanding land claims and developing comprehensive native title policies, to supporting economic development and employment opportunities on Aboriginal land.
While everyone has their own priorities and views, we need to work together wherever possible, not just for the benefit of Aboriginal Territorians, but for all Territorians.
Town Lands Native Title Policy
The NTG has developed a Town Lands Native Policy to equip native title holders with more control and flexibility in managing their land.
Native title holders can now apply to convert exclusive native title land within towns to freehold title, without extinguishing their native title rights.
For a freehold title to be granted, an Indigenous Land Use Agreement must be signed by the Registered Native Title Body Corporate, relevant Land Council and the NTG.
Once a freehold title is granted, the owner can hold onto it, subdivide it, lease it, mortgage it to raise finance or sell it. The granted title will still be subject to exclusive native title rights, but those rights will be fully suppressed and will have no force or effect for the life of the freehold Grant and any subsequent titles.
The Policy will help native title holders to develop their land without having to extinguish their hard-fought native title rights forever.
National Guiding Principles for Native Title Compensation Agreement Making
In October 2021 the NTG Cabinet endorsed the National Guiding Principles for Native Title Compensation Agreement Making (The Guiding Principles).
The Guiding Principles received in-principle endorsement by all Commonwealth, state and territory ministers responsible for native title at the Native Title Ministers Meeting on 15 October 2021.
At the Native Title Ministers Meeting, Ministers acknowledged the transition of the native title system towards a post-determination landscape, with a greater focus on supporting native title holders to manage and use their native title rights and on resolving native title compensation.
In light of this, and with regard to the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Mabo decision on 3 June 2022, the ministers endorsed the National Guiding Principles.
The principles are not binding on parties but they aspire to best practice, a consistent national approach, and reaffirm that governments will use their best efforts to settle native title compensation matters by negotiation and agreement, where possible, rather than litigation. They include principles that support:
- fairness, self-determination
- free, prior and informed consent
- good faith negotiations
- consideration of the aspirations of native title parties, and
- consistency within and across jurisdictions in assessing, valuing and resolving native title compensation.
These principles now form the core of the NTG’s approach to native title compensation agreement making.