The Central Land Council has given the green light for an innovative township lease that puts traditional owners and residents of the Mutitjulu community next to Uluru firmly in control of their future.
Traditional owners consented to the sublease last month and the CLC’s 11-member Executive yesterday formally agreed to the grant of a sublease until 2084 over the community in the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.
Initially the sublease will be held by the Australian Government’s Executive Director of Township Leasing (EDTL) who must consult with a committee of residents and traditional owners before making any land use decisions in Mutitjulu.
Once traditional owners and residents have built their capacity and established a new corporation the sublease will be transferred.
The EDTL must transfer the sublease to a new community corporation when the CLC is satisfied that the corporation has the capacity to manage the sublease.
This can happen at any time, and the sublease can be transferred back to the EDTL if the corporation runs into trouble.
For the first time, organisations such as the clinic, the school, the store, or a community housing provider will be given legal permission to occupy premises in Mutitjulu and start to pay rent.
These rent payments will fund community driven projects similar to the Mutitjulu pool and many other projects pioneered by the CLC’s successful community development program.
Rent payments will not be distributed to individuals and Parks Australia will not charge rent for the sublease.
“The CLC has worked with Mutitjulu since 2010 to devise this alternative community leasing model because the Australian Government’s model that involved ceding control over the community to the EDTL was never going to fly with our constituents,” CLC director David Ross said.
“Our community driven model keeps decision making in Aboriginal hands and at the local level, but also acknowledges the need to build community capacity and strong governance.
The model allows for innovation and change in decision making processes under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
It’s been a profoundly important settlement between residents and traditional owners – a negotiation about future roles and responsibilities for land use in a community. And while Mutitjulu’s situation is unique we hope our model will be widely emulated.”
Mr Ross said when the CLC first proposed a community leasing model, in 2010, the Commonwealth resoundingly rejected it.
“Traditional owners consistently opposed the Commonwealth’s township leasing model, so we persevered. We are very pleased Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has accepted our model,” he said.
“We also welcome the additional benefits the Commonwealth has agreed to make available upon signing of the sublease, such as the $10 million investment in community housing, modest accommodation for visiting traditional owners, and $2 million for a community business centre.
Mutitjulu has been missing out on investment and we hope this is the start of strong new future.
I congratulate the traditional owners and residents for their commitment to working through these complex issues and reaching an agreement on how to move forward.”
The CLC expects the sublease to be signed in 2017, once final arrangements are settled and it has been ratified by the jointly managed national park’s Board of Management.
Within two years of signing, the EDTL and the community consultative committee must agree on a master plan guiding the future development of Mutitjulu.
The CLC, which will remain closely involved in the process, has worked on this proposal for six years, following the request by the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation (MCAC) of a sublease.
MCAC made the request in order to bring some certainty to the land tenure so the community could develop with confidence.
The complex and time consuming negotiations affected a lot of parties due to Mutitjulu’s location inside the national park which the traditional owners had leased to the Commonwealth for 99 years when it was handed back to them in 1985.