CLC Frequently Asked Questions
- Does the CLC own Aboriginal land?
- What happens to royalty and rent payments to Aboriginal people?
- Who funds the CLC?
- Does the CLC control Aboriginal land??
- How does the CLC spend its money?
Does the CLC own Aboriginal land?
No. Aboriginal land is owned and controlled by the traditional owners who hold it under inalienable freehold title. This communal form of title is vested with Aboriginal land trusts.
When someone wants to use Aboriginal land for an activity such as mining or tourism the CLC has a legal responsibility to identify and consult with the traditional owners about that proposal.
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act states that the CLC must:
consult with and have regard to the interests of traditional owners
ensure that traditional owners understand any proposal
ensure any affected Aboriginal community has expressed its views
comply with traditional decision making processes
not give a direction without the consent of traditional owners.
If traditional owners want to carry out activity on their land, for example implement a community development project or start a business, the CLC may help them.
What happens to royalty and rent payments to Aboriginal people?
All payments the CLC receives for the use of Aboriginal land, for example from miners, pastoralists and community lease holders, as well as compensation and other payments are deposited in a bank account called the Land Use Trust Account.
Money from that account can only be spent when the council or executive committee have passed a resolution to say that it can. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act says that these funds must be held in trust for the beneficiaries, and paid to them or for their benefit without deduction.
The CLC has, for many years and with few exceptions, distributed funds from that account to Aboriginal associations now incorporated under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act).
The CLC is not allowed to use money from this account for its operations. There are strict laws against using this money to run the land councils. These funds almost always go to the relevant community corporation, individual or claim group for each land use agreement.
Once the CLC has paid money from the Land Trust Use Account, these funds are mostly out of the control of the CLC in an annual operational sense. However, it still provides significant resources to create, consult, administer and - where necessary – help corporations to distribute the funds relating to these agreements.
Aboriginal people, through their royalty or rent associations, are increasingly choosing to spend that money on sustainable community development they control rather than distribute it to individuals. In 2015/16 alone, they allocated more than 13.5 million of their royalties and rent on community projects.
Once the CLC has distributed funds to associations, in many instances the CLC’s Aboriginal Associations Management Centre (AAMC) helps the corporations to manage their corporate and accounting obligations under the CATSI Act, with the distribution of funds or with benefits to or on behalf of their members.
The AAMC helps associations to hold meetings, keep registers of members up to date and to meet corporate and accounting obligations under the CATSI Act. It helps with the distribution of funds or benefits to or on behalf of corporation members. The AAMC is the most cost effective way of providing these services to corporations.
Corporation meetings take place in the communities where most members live. AAMC staff help corporation members to run their meetings.
Corporations do not have to use the services of the AAMC. Each corporation decides whether to confirm the CLC’s ongoing role at their annual general meeting. If it wants to use the services of the AAMC it signs a letter of engagement.
Sometimes Aboriginal people ask the CLC to help them solve a disagreement between corporation members about the use of its money, eligibility for membership or to explain or change the corporation’s rules.
Who funds the CLC?
The main source of the CLC's funding is the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA).
The ABA was established under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to receive and distribute royalty equivalent monies generated from mining on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory.
The money is for the benefit of NT Aboriginal people and some of it must be used to run the NT land councils.
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs decides how much ABA money the CLC gets every year after the land council has put in a detailed budget. The Minister knows that the CLC has a number of jobs it must perform by law under the land rights act (its statutory functions).
The CLC’s functions have changed quite a lot over time. Since it has helped many Aboriginal people to get their land back, the CLC is now helping them to manage their land and to develop their communities.
For example, federal environment departments, the Indigenous Land Corporation and many other government agencies have funded a lot of the CLC’s land management work over the years.
Over the past decade, other government departments, non-government organisations and businesses have joined forces with the CLC’s popular community development program in order to make the money traditional owners have invested in projects that help their communities go further.
The CLC is also a representative body under the Native Title Act and must perform some functions under that legislation.
Does the CLC control Aboriginal land??
No. The traditional Aboriginal owners are the decision makers who control the use of Aboriginal land.
The Australian Government grants Aboriginal land that can be successfully claimed under inalienable freehold title.
This communal form of title cannot be bought, sold or mortgaged.
It is formally vested in Aboriginal land trusts whose members are Aboriginal people who hold the title for the benefit of all the traditional landowners.
How does the CLC spend its money?
There are a number of checks and balances to make sure the CLC does its job properly and uses its funding well.
Each year the CLC presents an annual report to the Australian Parliament detailing how it has spent its funding for the last financial year. This annual report with all the financial statements can be found here.
The annual report also sets out how well the CLC has performed. Each of CLC’s funding sources and agreements require at the minimum two written and financial reports per financial year – often more.
Before the annual report goes to the parliament the Australian National Audit Office carries out a strict check of the CLC’s finances.
In 1915/16 land management activities accounted for the largest group of spending in the CLC - about $10 million went towards helping traditional owners look after country – controlling weeds and feral animals, protecting threatened species and managing fire for instance.
Indigenous ranger groups carried out much of this work and they accounted for a large amount of the spending.
Economic development and commercial services such as land use agreements, employment, education and training, mining and commercial assistance accounts for the next largest expenditure group with around $9 million.
This includes CLC’s help for its main statutory mining and land use agreement functions, for example applications from miners to explore on Aboriginal land and pastoralists and others who want to use Aboriginal land for their businesses.
Advocacy and community development (almost $6 million) continues to be an important area of operations for the CLC. Its community development program has been running since 2005 and remains in high demand.