Annual Report 2010-2011
Output 2.1 Land Claims
Securing and maximising the land base for traditional Aboriginal landowners has been one of the most important statutory functions for the Central Land Council. Section 23 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 requires land councils to assist Aboriginal people to pursue land claims, in particular by arranging legal assistance at no cost to the claimants.
Section 50 of the Act provides a process by which Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory may claim unalienated Crown land, or ‘land in which all estates and interests are held for and on behalf of Aboriginal people’.
The Act allows for the return of successfully claimed land to the traditional Aboriginal owners as inalienable Aboriginal freehold title.
It also allowed claims on pastoral land when the pastoral lease was owned by Aboriginal interests.
However, the ‘sunset clause’, Section 50(2a) of the Land Rights Act, prevents the hearing of any land claims lodged after June 1997.
Land Handed Back
The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Julia Gillard handed Aboriginal freehold title underthe Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 to four areas of land in Central Australia on 7 June this year.
The Lhere Pirnte Aboriginal Land Trust received the title to the 422-square kilometre Finke Gorge National Park, 138 kilometres west of Alice Springs. The grant of title concluded the long-running Palm Valley Land Claim which covered part of the national park.
It was immediately leased back to the Northern Territory Government for 99 years, to be jointly managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service and the traditional owners.
As well, one of the largest and longest running land rights claims in the Central Land Council’s region, the Simpson Desert Stage 4 claim, was also concluded on 7 June with title to 18,000 square kilometres of land adjoining the Queensland border in the Simpson Desert handed to the Atnetye Aboriginal Land Trust.
Two small areas of land near Hermannsburg were also handed back at the same ceremony. The area handed back to the Ltalaltuma Aboriginal Land Trust was excluded from a previous land claim due to an administrative oversight many years ago.
A road realignment on the Ntaria Aboriginal Land Trust resulted in a swap of land to accommodate the change in infrastructure.
ABOVE: The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Julia Gillard, hands Aboriginal freehold title over part of the Simpson Desert to traditional owners.
Land Under Claim
The CLC and the Northern Territory Government reached agreement on a basis for settlement of the land claim.
The settlement will involve most of the claim area becoming Aboriginal land with the land claim being withdrawn from the community of Canteen Creek and the area immediately adjacent to it.
The other aspect of the settlement was the recognition of native title over the area that would be withdrawn from the land claim.
Subsequently it was determined that under the Native Title Act no application for determination of exclusive possession could be lodged over the five-year lease area until expiration of that lease.
Further discussions between the NT Government and the CLC have led to a proposal to consider revising the settlement offer, but as yet a revised offer has not been provided.
During the year the CLC corresponded and had discussions with the NT Government concerning resolution of detriment issues identified in the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s report. There are no contentious matters and the grant of title is anticipated in the near future.
The area of the Loves Creek Land Claim has been included in Schedule 1 of the Land Rights Act and grant of title is anticipated in the near future.
Frances Well Land Claim
The NT Government made an offer for the claim area to be included in Schedule 1 of the Land Rights Act subject to satisfactory resolution of any issues that the NT Government or the adjoining pastoral lessee may have. The NT Government’s issues have been resolved.
On the instructions of the claimants, the CLC offered the pastoralist an easement to secure a water pipeline that passes through the claim area as well as a licence to pass over the area for pastoral purposes. Although the offer was not accepted by the pastoralist, the CLC has written to the NT Government and the Commonwealth requesting that the claim area be granted as Aboriginal land on the basis that the offer to the pastoralist is reasonable and will be supported by an undertaking on behalf of the claimants that will secure future use of the area by the pastoralist consistent with the offer.
Brookes Soak Land Claim
The report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on this land claim was published in 1992. The land claim area includes the place where Mr Brookes was killed, the event that triggered the Coniston Massacre in 1928.
The report referred to evidence of the serious detriment that the proprietors of Mt Denison Pastoral Lease would suffer if the water source located at Brookes Soak was not available in the future.
For that reason the area of 259 hectares has not yet been granted to a Land Trust.
Following years of research it now appears that very little water is in fact produced from Brookes Soak, and the loss of the area would therefore not significantly impact the viability of the pastoral lease. A submission has been prepared which will soon be forwarded to the Minister to support a request that the area be granted to a land trust.