The History of the Central Land Council

The CLC traces its roots back to the Aboriginal struggle for justice and land rights.

Famous historic events such as the Gurindji strike and exodus from Wave Hill cattle station in 1966 paved the way for the 1973 Woodward Royal Commission into land rights in the Northern Territory.

Justice Woodward’s first report to the federal government in July 1973 recommended setting up a Central and a Northern Land Council to present to him the views of Aboriginal people.

A 1975 meeting of representatives of Central Australian Aboriginal communities elected Charlie Perkins as the first Central Land Council chair and Wenten Rubuntja as his deputy. 

Following Justice Woodward’s final report, Gough Whitlam's Labor government drew up a Land Rights Bill, which Malcolm Fraser's Liberal/Country government passed on the 16th December 1976.

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 came into operation on 26th January 1977 and gave Aboriginal people inalienable freehold title to most of the Aboriginal reserve lands in the NT and the opportunity to claim other land not already owned, leased or used.

Over the last four decades governments have tried many times to amend and undermine the act in attempts to erode Aboriginal control over their land. Despite these efforts, Aboriginal people today own more than half of the land in the Northern Territory.

The CLC marked its 40th anniversary with the launch of its oral history collection Every Hill Got a Story in September 2015.

It held a joint meting with the NLC at Kalkaringi in August 2016 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ALRA and to mark half a century since the Wave Hill Walk Off.

Land Rights Timeline 1976-2016














Click here to enlarge the timeline