Back

Annual Report 2010-2011

Published: December, 2011

About the CLC

The CLC was formed in 1974 and has been outstandingly successful in performing its statutory functions – so much so that now around 407,985 square kilometres of land are Aboriginal freehold under the Land Rights Act. When land was no longer able to be claimed after 1997, the CLC invested more resources in land management to enable Aboriginal people to manage the many threats and opportunities on their land, including pastoral activity, feral animal control, fire management and conserving threatened species.
As well, the CLC now leads the country with
its community development programs, which use rent and royalty monies from mining to
build infrastructure and fund programs in
remote communities.
The CLC is one of four Northern Territory land councils operating under the Act. It covers the entire southern half of the Northern Territory, an area of some 780,000 square kilometres of land, and its members belong to more than 15 language groups.
It consists of 90 Aboriginal representatives elected from communities around the CLC region who meet in various bush locations three times each year. Many of its functions are delegated to a 10-member Executive elected by the members and headed by a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman.
As a Commonwealth statutory body, the CLC consults with Aboriginal landowners on mining activity, land management, tourism, employment and other development proposals for their land.
The CLC operates under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. It is
annually audited by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
The CLC has multiple sources of revenue which are indicative of the evolving nature of operations performed to comply with its statutory functions. Last financial year’s expenditure was just over $21 million. Aboriginals Benefit Account funding made up $9.25 million of that revenue.
The CLC has a staff of around 200, of whom more than 100 are Aboriginal, making it one of the
largest employers of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
History
The roots of the Central Land Council lie in the history of the Aboriginal struggle for justice in Central Australia, which includes events such as the famous strike and walk off by the Gurindji people at Wave Hill cattle station in 1966.
In response to Aboriginal demands, in February 1973 the Commonwealth Government set up a Royal Commission under Mr Justice Woodward to inquire into how land rights might be achieved in the Northern Territory.
The Commissioner presented his first report in July 1973. He recommended that a Central and a Northern Land Council be established in order to present to him the views of Aboriginal people.
In 1974 the Central Land Council was formed. At that stage the staff consisted of an officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, who liaised with lawyers in Melbourne and Adelaide.
Following a meeting of representatives of Aboriginal communities, the Council was restructured in 1975. Charlie Perkins was elected Chairman and Wenten Rubuntja elected Vice Chairman. A lawyer was assigned by the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service to work for the Council.

After considering Mr Justice Woodward’s final report, the Government drew up an Aboriginal Land Rights Bill. However, the Labor Government was dismissed before the Bill passed through Parliament.
In June 1976 Wenten Rubuntja was elected Chairman. After vigorous public and parliamentary debate the legislation was passed. The new Liberal/Country Party government omitted provisions for land claims based on need and various other features of the original Bill.
The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was assented to on 16 December 1976 and came into operation on 26 January 1977.
It gave Aborigines title to most of the Aboriginal reserve lands in the Northern Territory and the opportunity to claim other land not already owned, leased or being used by someone else.
Statutory Functions
The statutory functions of the Central Land Council are described in section 23 (1) of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and are laid out below.
Although its functions are determined by the Act, the Land Council is first and foremost a representative organisation for the Aboriginal people in its area.
The functions of a Land Council are —
• To ascertain and express the wishes and the opinion of Aboriginals living in the area of the Land Council as to the management of Aboriginal land in that area and as to appropriate legislation concerning that land
• To protect the interests of traditional Aboriginal owners of, and other Aboriginals interested in, Aboriginal land in the area of the Land Council
• To assist Aboriginals in the taking of measures likely to assist in the protection of sacred sites on land (whether or not Aboriginal land) in the area of the Land Council
• To consult with traditional Aboriginal owners of, and other Aboriginals interested in, Aboriginal land in the area of the Land Council with respect to any proposal relating to the use of that land
• Where the Land Council holds in escrow a deed of grant of land made to a Land Trust under sectionl2 —
(i) to negotiate with persons having estates or interests in that land with a view to the acquisition of those estates or interests by the Land Trust; and
(ii) until those estates or interests have been so acquired, to negotiate with those persons with a view to the use by Aboriginals of the land in such manner as may be agreed between the Land Council and those persons
• To negotiate with persons desiring to obtain an estate or interest in land in the area of the Land Council —
(i) where the land is held by a Land Trust — on behalf of traditional Aboriginal owners (if any) of that land and of any other Aboriginals interested in the land; and
(ii) where the land is the subject of an application referred to in paragraph 50 (1) (a) - on behalf of the traditional Aboriginal owners of that land or on behalf of any other Aboriginals interested in the land
• To assist Aboriginals claiming to have a traditional land claim to an area of land within the area of the Land Council in pursuing the claim, in particular, by arranging for legal assistance for them at the expense of the Land Council
• To negotiate and enter into agreements, as necessary, for the purposes of subsection 70 (4)
• To compile and keep –
(i) a register recording the names of the members of the Land Council; and
(ii) a register recording the names of the members of the Land Trusts holding, or established to hold, Aboriginal land in its area and descriptions of each area of such Aboriginal land
• To supervise, and provide administrative or other assistance for, Land Trusts holding, or established to hold, Aboriginal land in its area.