Leasing and licensing on Aboriginal land
Roughly half the land in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal land, as shown on this. If you wish to carry out activities on Aboriginal land, then you first need a lease, licence or other type of land use agreement. These agreements are sometimes called “section 19 agreements”.
A lease or licence gives permission to use Aboriginal land and ensures that the rights of traditional owners are properly recognised. We support leases and licences where the proponent and their activities are responsible and the proposed agreement benefits Aboriginal people.
You can apply for a lease or licence. Please read the information and frequently asked questions on this page before you apply.
Process for leases and licences on Aboriginal land
Section 19 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) sets out the process for a lease or licence being granted over Aboriginal land.
Leasing and licensing on community living areas
Some remote communities in our region are community living areas. A community living area is not Aboriginal land but freehold land owned by an Aboriginal corporation or association. We help some land holding bodies with leasing and licensing in their community living areas.
Please see frequently asked questions for a list of those community living areas.
Apply for a lease or licence
To apply for a lease or licence over Aboriginal land or a community living area in our region please use this form.
If you would like to talk about your application before submitting it, please call us on 08 8951 6211 or contact us at email@example.com.
To submit your application, please email your completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions
[Click on each question to expand]
In the Northern Territory, the term Aboriginal land means Aboriginal freehold land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth). Approximately half the land in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal freehold land, as shown on this map.
Community living area land is freehold land granted to an Aboriginal corporation or association, under Northern Territory laws. In certain circumstances, Aboriginal corporations and associations can grant leases and licences over this land.
We help some community living areas with lease and licence applications.
Aboriginal land and community living area land is freehold land. As with any other privately owned land, if you wish to carry out an activity on that land, you must first make an agreement with the land owner. Such an agreement is usually a lease or a licence.
It not only recognises legal ownership, it also makes sure that the rights and obligations of each party are clear and gives the proponent security of tenure to carry out activities and, where relevant, invest in their operation.
A permit under the Aboriginal Land Act only allows access to Aboriginal land. It does not allow continued occupation or other activities, such as carrying on a commercial activity. We do not process permits for community living area land.
If you want to occupy Aboriginal land on Aboriginal or community living area land, or carry out an activity there, you must apply for a lease or a licence.
If you are not sure whether you need a permit, a lease or a licence, please contact us at email@example.com.
No. Aboriginal land is not owned by individuals, but held by Aboriginal land trusts on behalf of traditional Aboriginal owners, as a group.
The only lawful and effective way to make an agreement to use Aboriginal land is through us, using the process under the Land Rights Act.
We accept lease and licence applications for all Aboriginal land in our region, including communities on that land. We also accept lease and licence applications for the following community living areas:
|Aboriginal land||Community living areas||Under claim (Contact CLC)|
|Amoonguna||Atitjere (Harts Range)|
|Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff)||Tara|
|Imangara (Murray Downs)||Wilora|
|Kaltukatjara (Docker River)||Wutunugurra (Epenarra)|
|Nturiya (Ti Tree Station)|
|Pmara Jutunta (Six Mile)|
|Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa)|
|Yuelamu (Mount Allen)|
Certain towns in our region are not Aboriginal land or community living areas. In those towns, standard leasing and licensing arrangements apply, generally without involving us. These include Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Ti Tree, Kalkaringi and Aputula (Finke). If you are seeking a lease or licence within these towns, please contact the land owner.
Please note, Aboriginal land immediately surrounds Tennant Creek, Ti Tree, Kalkaringi and Aputula (Finke). Usual lease-or-licence-making processes under the Land Rights Act apply for that land.
A land use agreement over Aboriginal land can be a lease or a licence or another less common interest in land. A land use agreement for a community living area is typically a lease or a licence.
A lease or a licence will set out what activities a proponent or third party can undertake.
Examples of activities previously approved:
- residential housing and public housing
- commercial, retail and tourism
- pastoral, grazing and mustering
- extractive minerals
- construction and use of a pipeline or road
- telecommunications infrastructure
The land trust which owns the affected Aboriginal land grants the lease or a licence. However, under section 19 of the Land Rights Act, the land trust can only grant the lease or licence if we have first directed it to do so.
We may only direct an Aboriginal land trust to enter into a lease or a licence if we are satisfied that:
- traditional Aboriginal owners understand the nature and purpose of the proposed agreement and have consented to it
- Aboriginal groups or communities affected by the proposed agreement have been consulted and had an opportunity to express their views
- the terms and conditions of the agreement are reasonable.
The parties to the lease or licence will typically be the affected land trust, the CLC and the proponent.
If a lease or a licence on Aboriginal land is for more than 40 years or worth more than $5 million, we will also ask the Commonwealth minister responsible for the Land Rights Act for approval.
We may consider:
- how the proposal compares with similar agreements in our region
- whether and to what extent the agreement will create social or economic benefits for the community
- expert advice
For Aboriginal land
We must consult with traditional Aboriginal owners of the land affected by the proposed agreement and any Aboriginal communities who may be affected by the proposal.
The traditional Aboriginal owners will consider the proposal and may refuse it, consent to it or seek to negotiate terms. A lease or a licence on Aboriginal land can only progress if traditional Aboriginal owners have first given their group consent to the proposal.
For community living areas
We will consult with the Aboriginal corporation or association which owns the community living area. A decision on whether to enter into a lease or a licence will be made by the land holding body in accordance with its rule book.
Consent of the minister responsible for administering the Associations Act (NT) is also required if the lease or licence is for:
- more than 10 years
- a use other than health, education, housing, certain financial services or otherwise consistent with the Planning Act (NT)
Before we can consult, we and the proponent must first agree in principle the key terms and conditions of the lease or a licence. This includes the location of the premises, rent or licence fee, permitted use and any special conditions.
Once in-principle terms and conditions are agreed, we will undertake consultation as soon as practicable. Applicants should provide as much notice as possible because there may be delays. These may be caused by factors such as time to negotiate the in-principle terms and conditions, weather, volume of applications and cultural reasons.
Sometimes it takes more than one consultation meeting until traditional Aboriginal owners reach a decision. If they are unable to make a decision, then the lease or licence cannot progress.
For most proposals it will take at least six months from the initial application to finalise an agreement.
The time depends on factors such as:
- availability of CLC resources to assess your proposal, negotiate in-principle terms and conditions and undertake consultations
- location and availability of traditional Aboriginal owners for consultations and whether they wish to be consulted more than once
- how many Aboriginal groups or communities may be affected by the proposal
- whether the proposal is for an existing use or for a new development
- the complexity of the proposal, including the amount of land subject to the lease or licence
- whether you have provided all relevant information we have requested in advance
- whether there are any disputes about the land the subject of the proposed lease or licence
- if we direct the land trust to grant a lease or a licence, then time to obtain the land trust’s authority to affix the common seal to the agreement.
If traditional Aboriginal owners do not consent to a lease or a licence, then the application cannot be progressed any further.
Likewise, if the land-holding body or a community living area refuses its consent to the lease or licence, then the application will not be progressed any further.
Rent or licence payments are paid into our land use trust account.
For Aboriginal land, we then distribute those payments in full to, or for the benefit of, the traditional Aboriginal owners affected by the agreement.
For community living areas, the land holding bodies apply the payments in accordance with their rule books. Generally, this is towards community development projects.
We do not deduct costs from rent or licence fees, however in some circumstances we may separately seek to recover costs from third parties.
Our legal team manages lease and licence applications. This includes the application process, co-ordinating a multi-disciplinary team to assess each proposal, organising the logistics for consultations and undertaking consultation meetings.
You can send any questions about your lease or licence proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org.