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CLC Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Stronger Futures Bills

Submission to the Senate Committee on Community Affairs Inquiry into the Stronger Futures in Northern Territory Bill 2011 and two related Bills

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Recommendations of the Central Land Council on the land and land reform measures:

The CLC has consistently supported the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government efforts to formalise land tenure in Aboriginal communities through voluntary agreements with Aboriginal landowners.

The focus that the Stronger Futures land reform measures bring to the issue of leasing on Aboriginal communities on community living areas (CLAs) is welcome.

There is a genuine and pressing need for comprehensive reform of the Northern Territory legislation affecting CLAs to allow for leases or licences to be granted by the Aboriginal
landowners of CLAs in relation to critical community infrastructure such as police stations, power and water assets, offices, businesses etc.

Ideally, comprehensive reform would be lead by the Northern Territory Government. In the absence of proactive leadership by the Northern Territory Government, the approach being
taken by the Australian Government in the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2011 and the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (Consequential and Transitional Provisions)
Bill 2011 is understandable but is not ideal.

The CLC would prefer the Australian Government to develop a comprehensive and detailed CLA reform agenda and introduce a Bill that expressly sets out the reform for debate and comment.
In this context, the CLC is keen to be part of the solution and willing to provide services to CLA communities similar to the way it functions with respect to communities on Aboriginal land
granted under the Land Rights Act.

The fundamental concern is that, as the end of the NTER approaches, the Australian Government may be tempted to carry out minimalist reforms that are expedient but which are not thorough. This will not provide certainty for either the third parties seeking access to CLAs
or for the Aboriginal landowners of CLAs.