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Indigenous Land - access permits

Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory appear to be further threatened by recent moves by Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, to abolish the access-by-permit system.
Brough is at least correct when he observes that intending visitors must seek permission from a "select group" before they can visit the land. The group in question are known at law as "the owners". There is a fundamental and familiar concept operating here: by virtue of the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act, Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory is private property. The owners are simply exercising their legal right to decide who may enter their property. The existence of the permit system is also crucial to the protection of sacred sites, because it allows the custodians of the land to exercise a measure of control over the movements of visitors.
THE AGE 09.10.06

Disturbingly, Brough has associated the access rights issue with unassociated but very emotional child abuse issues.

Graham Ring, writing in The Age this morning, believes Brough's "kneejerk" law and order policies are not dealing with the problems in the North.
Maningrida is the seventh largest town in the Northern Territory, with a population of almost 2500 people. There are fewer than 160 habitable houses, so the average dwelling is shared by more than 15 people.

This is a recipe for disaster: Children don't sleep, can't study, and struggle even to get to school, let alone learn anything. Adults are not sufficiently rested to work, even if jobs are available. Overtaxed plumbing systems break down, repairs are expensive, and tradespeople thin on the ground. The implications for hygiene are obvious.

Life chances in these unhappy, overcrowded houses are restricted, consequently residents are at greater risk of psychological problems. The personal security of children in these environments becomes problematic.

Submissions to Mal Brough's discussion paper close on November 30.

THE AGE 09.10.06



  • edited January 1970
    Important issue Peter, will read the paper - perhaps some of our social planners can shed some light to this issue?
  • edited January 1970
    Yes it's very important, and rather hard to find discussion about it. And November 30 approaches... any other article links would be welcome in this thread.
  • edited January 1970

    As this is my first ever post, I hope I do it right.

    I'm trying to get through all the politics and work out what the intended changes to the permit system will actually mean.

    This is what Mal Brough reckons:,20867,20525179-7583,00.html

    This is what Claire Martin reckons:

    These are some views from Land Councils:

    and finally, some statements from Traditional Owners.

    I hope some good submissions get sent before the 30th because I fear that the recently passed ammendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT) have already begun the process of enabling unwanted development and opening up of Indigenous lands in Australia.

    The abolition of the permit system is obviously another nail in the coffin of Indigenous rights in this country. Will it be the last?

  • edited January 1970
    Hi Susan, thanks for the links, very good first post!
    I'll have a read and perhaps we could ignite some most needed discussion around this issue here.
  • edited January 1970
    Great links Sue. From the Mal Brough piece mentioned above:
    The fact is, it's not exactly the same as private land. It is communal property. There are communal spaces such as the townships and roads and government-funded bodies, which are more like public space, and there are houses and other landholdings, which are more like private space. Private space deserves the protection of trespass laws - public space does not.

    This government seems very keen on defining things in a black-or-white fashion. But as is obvious elsewhere (at government buildings for instance), there are many shades in between 'public' and 'private' space. And the defintions shift from culture to culture - what does the concept of "private space" mean to a traditional land owner?

    Does Brough really get or respect ceremonial ground and burial ground - where do these fit in his sentence above.

    Repeated from the Age article (linked above):
    Balanda (white people) don't know which is ceremonial ground or burial ground, they just walk anywhere; that's why we have to have this system. (Donald Gumurdul, Philip Mikginjmikginj and Jacob Nayinggul - traditional owners of Kunwinjku country, in Arnhem Land.)
  • edited October 2006
    Thanks again for the links Susan. I found the article by Donald Gumurdul, Philip Mikginmikginj and Jacob Nayinggul, clear and particularly powerful. However, even the title insists on an understanding and I wonder: do we really have to understand or to respect?
    Sometimes our understanding is limited by our knowledge and experience – we (anyone) may never understand - it does not mean that we should not respect and accept difference. This is about semantics, but I believe it influences our mental process, including our priorities.

    The following quote is very interesting and can be extended also to the notion of cutural diversity involving people from other nations coming to Australia.
    If someone has to go into ceremony for 12 months, they ask their boss. Aboriginal art represents Australia in places such as Venice and New York. But this art comes from ceremony. If ceremony is changed, if it is stopped, the art will stop too.

    The government and sometimes us too, want the product of diversity, the spectacle, but not the substance- in this case, the culture that generates it. Culture may involve a different sense of time, different appreciation and ways to to do things. Without this, the product is meaningless – but I suppose the government and the market would not mind that, art is commodified for profit.

    Do you know what can be done about? Is anyone seriously lobbying the government on this?
  • edited January 1970
    Can anyone confirm if what Claire Martin is saying is correct?
    "I'd also say that equally to that he should talk to this Government about one of the pieces of our legislation, because the permit system comes under the Aboriginal Lands Act, which is a Territory piece of legislation."

    If so, does that mean that Mal can't change things? I though Canberra had the power to change Territory Law.

    Clearly, I need some help understanding this.

    Are there such things as architects with Law degrees?

  • edited January 1970
    Beatriz - I have a confession. I'm trying to work up a submission but am feeling a little lost. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • edited January 1970
    Hi Susan, I know there are architects with law degrees, I met one once.... and I can't remember who that was. However, there are statutory planners and planners with lots of legal knowledge.

    I am glad you are writing something on this issue. My suggestion would be to pass it through the planning institute - just the blog they have and get their feed back. This case is a good reason to work collaboratively with other disciplines. I have access to their blog and I could assist with that part.

  • edited January 1970
    Just an observation here. It appears to me that the idea of a different ways of being is something that mainstream Australian culture cannot handle.
    This is no more evident than the antimony of private property and collective custodianship of land. The attempts to dismantle traditional ownership are at the core of a monoculture based on consumption. Prime Minister Howard has recently been promoting private ownership and home ownership as a key to indigenous Australians assimilation and progress under the euphemism of choice. The Dog Whistler is actually saying that traditional community is an impediment to development and a threat to individual freedom. Couple this with the maligning of all traditional law with the mud of sexual abuse, this recent move on access to indigenous lands and an immediate scare campaing around the successful land claim in Perth and you get the picture. The most vocal supporters of the land claim by the Noongah people in Perth have not been the Labour Party or the Greens (either federal or state) but the Mineral Council of Australia. Not exactly your radical collectivists. It is an irony that this gargantuan profit making enterprise can understand that negotiation and acknowledgement of difference can be mutually beneficial to deliver profits and what indigenous communities want - the resources for economic prosperity, autonomy and self determination while maintaining their culture based on the land. MCA have only taken 40 years (since the 1967 referendum) to get to this point. It might take the rest of us a little longer
    The Federal Government continues to see assimilation as being a key to Australia's future and continues to attack of those ways of being (whether they be indigenous communities and land title or migrant/refuges and religious beliefs), that by their very existence are seen as a threat to the monolith of privatisation, materialism and consumption. I believe that zealots within the Federal Governement are the 21 Century Missionaries. Conversion to materialism, private ownership and individualism under the nebulous and dangerous title of Australian Values.
    This is the paucity of our national imagination.
  • edited January 1970
    Hi Susan,

    I read the discussion paper produced by the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, entitled "ACCESS TO ABORIGINAL LAND UNDER THE NORTHERN TERRITORY ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS ACT – TIME FOR CHANGE?"

    I will quickly refer to some of the issues I notice:

      • There are many mentions of violence and crime among Aborigines. According to this paper, these can be solved through changes in land access as a way to bring about economic prosperity. Issues regarding access to services and infrastructure have not been mentioned as a possible factor in this situation.
    It is clear that, despite its restrictions, the current permit system has not prevented the scourge of drug trafficking or violence and abuse occurring in many communities
    • There are four references to market economy. Three of these references have been used when describing the benefit of the proposed changes, the other is used to justify the proposed changes - as the current system is presented as an impediment, for some “Individual Aboriginal people”, for engaging with the market economy.
    Individual Aboriginal people who have wanted to engage in the market economy or mainstream Australian society have, in effect, been prevented by gate keepers
    • In point 2 (Options), the concept of public v/s private space is discussed. These notions are put in an Anglo Australian context and no attempt was made to explain them from an Aboriginal perspective. Again, the concept of market economy is discussed at this point to explain the benefits of the proposed changes.
    This option would promote the benefits of liberalisation -giving Aborigina people in remote areas greater potential to engage with the market economy and mainstream society -while also protecting non-public Aboriginal land from unnecessary intrusion...
    • Liberalism and liberalisation, has been used 4 times, twice in relation to economy and twice in relation to land access. There is not attempt to use liberalisation in the way of freedom, but again, to denote market and land rights.
    Liberalisation would also bring economic benefits that would help to promote the self-reliance and prosperity of Aboriginal people in remote communities.

    These proposed changes are written from the point of view of the government, reflecting its own ideology: market economy, liberalisation (in economic terms) and the concept of private / public space. These concepts fall into the realm of market interests (land values) – in sum, a commodification of space.

    The paper mentions crime and violence. In response, changes to land access are presented as the solution. Nowhere in Australia can we say that by redressing one single aspect of a complex situation we will achieve a solution – this is ignorant at best. There is not mention of access to services, education and infrastructure as possible forms of assisting these communities. I don’t believe that current legislation would prevent these communities from desiring and enjoying better services if these were made available.

    Public and private space is a complex area and the interpretation of these concepts varies even within Anglo-European and American societies. These concepts - more so when narrowed down to a single notion based on a market economy, should not be imposed on an Aboriginal culture – or to any culture for that matter –without extensive consultation. This is an imposition, this is aggressive.

    This paper does not reflect aboriginal values. Aboriginal people have been referred to as some individuals who may benefits from adhering to market values. There is not evidence of consultation with aboriginal groups and no identification of those individuals who, according to the paper, would benefit from these changes. This type of claim could easily be put down as anecdotal, and if this was the case, it should never be a justification for a legislation of any type.

    Looking forward to reading more comments...
  • edited January 1970
    Susan, I can't really answer your question, but this may asist:

    If you look at my top post, I've added some new links to the Territory law and the Commonwealth Law. They seem to overlap a bit. The commonwealth law, section 73 & 74, I'll reproduce here in case someone can interpret them... It seems to set the extent of powers of the NT regarding land rights and access, and could presumeably be amended.
    73. Reciprocal legislation of the Northern Territory

    (1) The power of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory under the Northern Territory (Self‑Government) Act 1978 in relation to the making of laws extends to the making of:

    (a) laws providing for the protection of, and the prevention of the desecration of, sacred sites in the Northern Territory, including sacred sites on Aboriginal land, and, in particular, laws regulating or authorizing the entry of persons on those sites, but so that any such laws shall provide for the right of Aboriginals to have access to those sites in accordance with Aboriginal tradition and shall take into account the wishes of Aboriginals relating to the extent to which those sites should be protected;

    (b) laws regulating or authorizing the entry of persons on Aboriginal land, but so that any such laws shall provide for the right of Aboriginals to enter such land in accordance with Aboriginal tradition;

    (c) laws providing for the protection or conservation of, or making other provision with respect to, wildlife in the Northern Territory, including wildlife on Aboriginal land, and, in particular, laws providing for schemes of management of wildlife on Aboriginal land, being schemes that are to be formulated in consultation with the Aboriginals using the land to which the scheme applies, but so that any such laws shall provide for the right of Aboriginals to utilise wildlife resources; and

    (d) laws regulating or prohibiting the entry of persons into, or controlling fishing or other activities in, waters of the sea, including waters of the territorial sea of Australia, adjoining, and within 2 kilometres of, Aboriginal land, but so that any such laws shall provide for the right of Aboriginals to enter, and use the resources of, those waters in accordance with Aboriginal tradition;

    but any such law has effect to the extent only that it is capable of operating concurrently with the laws of the Commonwealth, and, in particular, with this Act, Division 4 of Part 15 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and any regulations made, schemes or programs formulated or things done, under this Act, or under or for the purposes of that Division.

    (2) Subsection (1) does not affect the continued operation of any Ordinance of the Northern Territory relating to a matter referred to in that subsection made before the commencement of this section if that Ordinance could have been made in accordance with that subsection, but an Ordinance of the Northern Territory made before the commencement of this section and relating to a matter referred to in subsection (1) has effect after the commencement of this section to the extent only that it would have had effect if made after the commencement of this section.

    74 Application of laws of Northern Territory to Aboriginal land
    This Act does not affect the application to Aboriginal land of a law of the Northern Territory to the extent that that law is capable of operating concurrently with this Act.

    And Mal Brough's website states:
    In the Northern Territory, the permit system operates under the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act and the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Land Act.
  • edited January 1970
    A quick google on reports concerning the discussion paper on access to Aboriginal Lands put out by the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough, does not indicate that this discussion was an outcome of the Intergovernmental Summit on Violence and Child Abuse in Indigenous Communities which it purports to be.
    Reports from that summit show instead a concern for interventionist strategies by government in terms of “law and order”on the one hand and concern by social justice groups on the.lack of long-term capacity building strategies that ought to be the central focus of Government.

    The Government is emphasising strategies such as the setting up of a “National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force”, and a determination to amend the sentencing and bail provisions in the Crimes Act 1914 (Crimes Act) to ensure that “judges passing sentence on federal offences will no longer be required to consider a person’s "cultural background", even where this might be considered relevant. Moreover, sentencing judges will not be allowed to take account of “customary practices” and customary law” (Catholic Social Services Australia Executive Director, Frank Quinlan, 03-Oct-2006).

    The other parties to the summit criticise lack of access to a full range of health, healthcare, and education services for Aboriginal people caused by cronic underfunding of these services and lack of co-ordinated administration of indigenous affairs at various levels of government.
    Larissa Behrendt , professor of law and director of research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology, Sydney sums up this concern when she says “A final concern with the outcome of the summit is that the focus on intervention rather than development in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities means that the focus will be on the continual attempt to manage the problem rather than on a concerted and comprehensive attempt to also attack the root causes. Without a more strategic approach that mixes short-term intervention with long-term capacity building, these issues will be managed but not solved.” (Australian Policy Online ,

    A quick perusal of Mal Brough’s discussion paper on access permits shows a concern with “external scrutiny” and engaging with the “market economy without hindrance” as the solution to the violence and abuse found within Aboriginal communities. The paper does not detail how these measures will address family poverty, inadequate housing, poor community infrastructure, high levels of unemployment and limited or no access to chronically underfunded support services.

    The underlying agenda seems to be that market forces will somehow provide the panecea. It seems to me that Mal Brough has yet to learn that market forces only manage those things that are a profitable part of the market economy. He is suggesting that removal of the permits will open up Aboriginal communities, which will then open up to market forces which will then improve the lot of the Aboriginal people (no mention of improved access to publicly funded Government services or extra spending on these services). Alice Springs and the impoverishment of the Aboriginal communities there would then have to be seen as a case study - and my guess is that this illustrates just how misleading Brough's idealogy is.

    The paper criticises the permit system for "absolving people of their responsibilities". I critcise Brough for engaging in this tactic himself.
  • edited January 1970
    While it is right to be suspicious of the motives of the federal government my experience in working in Neighbourhood Improvement Programs with the NSW Department of Housing makes me aware that isolation in socio-economically depressed groups is a contributing factor to the level of disfunctionality and violence experienced there.
    The NSW Department of Housing built large townhouse estates based on “Radburn” planing principles. These estates had cul-de-sac street layouts, no through traffic and a network of pedestrian ways running behind the houses. While possibly ideal for middle class Canberra, as social housing in NSW they resulted in isolated inwards turning communities of disadvantage and neglect.
    One outcome of the NIP program was to connect these enclaves to the wider community by converting the cul-de-sacs into through roads, “reversing” the housing to have the front door facing the street and “privatising the walkways into fenced back yards. I understand that the result has been a significant reduction in crime and increase in sense of security amongst the residents.
    Which is to say that isolation has been shown to be a contributing condition for violence in communities and that communities could consider measures to reduce that isolation as part of their strategy to reduce the level of violence within them.
  • edited January 1970
    Good point Nick,
    The issue of isolation is important and I have seen evidence of its negative effects in other situations—not only in indigenous communities but even in suburbs with low income demographics and disconnected from public transport.
    I get that you are referring to the successful work of the NSW Housing Ministry, and there is a lot of good work happening at that level.

    Your example is interesting in that it addresses a specific issue, with a specific solution —and I assumed, after extensive consultation. Your description give me a sense of an area that is almost suburban, cul-de-sac which have been problematic everywhere. It is also good in that there is a change in the ownership of the land (small piece I imagine), together with relevant changes to the street layout, which is part of an infrastructure service, which many of the communities in central Australia lack.

    I guess my question focuses on the large implications of this legislation – kind of “one size fits all” approach. The style of the change is defined by an economic/market ideology and will be applied equally to all communities and scales of ownership, from a single house, to aboriginal towns and lands. There appears to be no regards for cultural differences (not all bad and violent expressions as portrayed in their proposal), their needs and their opinions.
  • edited January 1970
    Nick's point about isolation is a valid one but perhaps it should be qualified in relation to this particular issue.

    Many Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory are not suffering from isolation from the outside world or each other. There are too many tourists for that. Also, to visit many communities for the day, like the ones next to Kakadu National Park or near Uluru, does not require a permit.

    It has never been a matter of access, despite what these comments suggest:

    "Most Australians operate on the view, that providing they are going about their business and their life in a lawful fashion, they should have the right to move freely around the country, subject of course to respecting rights of private property," Mr Howard said.

    If you want to see what this whole thing is really abut then I recommend reading this VERY disturbing summary of the whole issue.

    If you only read one article from this whole forum discussion, this is it!
  • edited January 1970
    You make a really good point Nick when you state that the Radburn planning principles as applied to NSW Department of Housing large townhouse estates you quote are principles that are not sensitive enough to the community to which they were applied. In spite of good intentions it exemplifies a real dilemma: a mismatch of values between those who are the planners and designers of urban/social settings and those of the community who find themselves placed in those settings. There is a separation of design from lived experience. You have not mentioned this so I ask is the NIP program you were involved in the result of participatory design with lots of community input in an attempt to close this gap?

    Obviously, Aboriginal culture has become the subordinate culture in a world dominated by white values and attempts at integration or separation or protection or even something as basic as discourse are fundamentally driven by the dominant white value system. While there may indeed by elements of participatory design in the political processes that have been pursued to date, none the less I believe we are attempting to impose in our peculiarly piecemeal way, solutions upon communities whose infrastructure has evolved organically as a highly integrated way of life over thousands of years. How much of Aboriginal understanding is reflected and respected in any of the design solutions (such as access permits or concepts of public and private space as discussed here in this forum) arrived at so far? And how involved in the current debate are the communities most affected?
  • edited January 1970
    ABC National Radio - The National Interest 29/10/06
    Disussion of headlease arrangements:

    The item is about 1/3 of the way through the sound file.
  • edited January 1970
    Thanks for this link Peter,

    The program is very interesting.

    Both the participants made strong sumbissions to the original Amendments Bill so it was well worth listening to.

    From listening to this program and from the public discussion that Architects for Peace held at RMIT (Melbourne) last night , it appears that the whole acess and permits thing is something of a side issue.

    The important point is the 99 year headlease and what that will mean for economic development, housing and tourism on Aboriginal Lands. I wonder if there is more debate/discussion about that part of the amended Land Rights (NT) Act than there currently is about the whole permit thing.


    p.s. You shared some great info last night. Any new links to add?

    I have the transcript of the one day public hearing in Darwin:

    and a letter to Australians from Makinti Minutjukur

    and a link to another forum with a number of responses to this letter

  • edited January 1970
    Last night (Nov 2, 2006), at words.@.bldg50, we heard of the previous agreements between aboriginal leaders - representing their communities - and the governments of that time. These agreements were celebrated with dance and music with government and communities sharing in the achievement. The documents recording these agreements were framed by works of indigenous art symbolising an understanding between cultures.

    What is patently different today is that there is no joy as a result of this new legislation, there are not thousands of Aborigines celebrating nor a sincere Prime Minister joining in any kind of dance or ceremony. The main feature of this process is secrecy, haste and the display of disrespect for a democratic consultative process and for the rights of the traditional owners of this land.

    Join us in this task and assist the indigenous people of Australia to shed light on this issue.
  • edited January 1970
    Following from Thursday's discussions at Words@ bldg50

    RAIA Indigenous Housing Taskforce
    Carey Lyon: The idea of the value of design has different imperatives across the nation, and another new initiative of the National Council is to establish an Indigenous Housing Taskforce. This representative group of members and indigenous leaders, will explore ways to tackle the backlog of housing in remote communities, and demonstrate how design can play a role in creating something which is culturally sensitive, deals with complex logistics, and can attract government funding.


    Senate August 8th, 9th2006
    LINK 8th August p.77
    LINK 9th August p.2
    I mentioned a few of Senator Humphries' statements on Thursday night, and add to that with some more excerpts from those days in the Senate. I have gone to some trouble to do this - the intent is to give an idea of the issues discussed though it is inevitably going to look like a censored lot of sound bites.

    Senator Chris Evans (ALP):
    In 1995, David Mowaljarlai, an Aboriginal elder from West Kimberley, said:
    ..." I don’t own the land, but the land owns me. That is the strong thing in Aborigine law and culture. It’s about the land. I’m only a servant, we all Aborigines are servants, we serve nature. That’s why it’s so important for us, because the land owns us."
    The bill diminishes the rights of traditional owners over their asset: the land. It fundamentally seeks to alter the principle of communal landownership, which is at the heart of the land rights regime. The government has taken this step without proper negotiation with traditional owners and without their consent. It is hard to imagine that any other group of Australians would have their property rights treated in this way.
    Aboriginal land belongs to Aboriginal people and changes to land tenure on their land need to be negotiated with them and to have their consent. Reforms must be respectful of and appropriate to the principles of Aboriginal communal ownership and ensure the security of their title to Aboriginal land. To diminish their ownership rights as this bill seeks to do must be considered very carefully.
    The government seeks to characterise the debate as a conflict between land rights and economic development. It promotes a simplistic political paradigm in which Aboriginal people have to choose one or the other—protection of their land rights or the benefits of economic development.
    The government simply asserts that this bill will facilitate homeownership and be a panacea for the entrenched disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians. Of course, no evidence is produced to support that claim. It has floundered to provide answers to the important questions. How will Indigenous people, with some of the lowest incomes in the country, be able to service large mortgages? How will homeownership be achievable in the most remote regions of Australia where construction costs are high and incomes are low? What will happen to the traditional lands of those who default? Will this scheme see much Aboriginal land divested from its traditional owners, as was the case in Canada and the USA with their experiments? We are asked to take the government’s assertions and this bill on trust. This bill is desperately lacking detail and the Senate should not be and cannot be expected to pass legislation with so much important detail unseen—detail that goes to the very heart of Indigenous ownership and control of their land.

    Senator Andrew Bartlett (Dem)
    let us once and for all, from the start, put aside any farcical deception that this legislation has been the subject of ongoing consultation at the community level for the last nine years. Some components of it have been, but there are key, vital components that have not.
    I sometimes wonder these days whether Senate committee inquiries that are impossibly short just give the government a fig leaf to make it look like they have engaged in consultation when they have not.
    who will be paying for any 99-year leases that occur over townships? Remember, this is the government’s brand new idea. The government have not consulted with traditional owners and it has not been part of the long reconsideration of this act to have a 99-year headlease over a township. Yet any rents payable to traditional owners who agree to lease their land will come not from the lessee, like the Northern Territory government, for example, but from the existing pool of money already set aside for Aboriginal people which has been directly derived from mining royalties on Aboriginal land. Frankly, every time I look at this I think there must be a mistake. They could not be so brazen as to say under the guise of providing economic opportunity for Aboriginal people, ‘You can rent your land to somebody else for 99 years and the money to pay for that rent will come from your own money that has already been set aside.’

    Senator Rachel Siewert (Greens)
    The main impediment to economic development in Aboriginal communities is not the issue of land tenure and private leases. Housing access, rather than individual house ownership, is an issue. There are many more pressing issues that need addressing. Constraints to economic development include the incredible remoteness, transaction costs, transport costs, limited opportunities, small population sizes with no economies of scale, the lack of equity in terms of low income and low rates of employment and, in particular, the lack of education, training and infrastructure. These are all issues that constrain economic development.
    The community is very concerned that headleasing and subleasing provisions could mean that traditional owners relinquish control and cannot prevent inappropriate commercial development on subleased land—for example, liquor outlets subleased in dry communities.
    It is arguable that there is no need to introduce this new headleasing scheme because private leases are already available under the existing section 19.
    The Northern Territory government entity that controls the subleases remains totally unknown. The Northern Territory legislation has not been drafted and there is no information available on the powers and composition of this entity or how it will operate. Is it to be a not-for-profit entity? If not, where do the sublease profits go? If the rental for the headlease is fixed, can the entity make a profit from the sublease? What say do the traditional owners then have in the approval of the subleases?
    Traditional owners are concerned that they may lose control over townships on
    their land to community residents from other cultural groups. It is the land councils who
    will be negotiating the conditions of the lease. When this is taken in combination with
    the provisions creating new land councils - where 55 per cent of members live nearby
    and are not necessarily the traditional owners of the land - and delegating the functions of a land council to Aboriginal corporations, who are not necessarily working in the best
    interests of the traditional owners, this creates a problem. It could mean that a group of
    residents who are not the traditional owners of the land on which a town site is located
    could effectively be taking control of a township lease
    The government has asserted that these headleases will be purely voluntary. However, the committee inquiry heard evidence of at least two cases where communities have been required to sign on to headleases in exchange for the delivery of what are arguably basic and essential services.
    Where the provision of essential services is woefully inadequate, it is disingenuous to claim that requiring Aboriginal communities to sign away their rights in exchange for ‘extra’ services is a voluntary decision. This amounts to coercion.

    What this government is effectively doing is selling to Aboriginal communities the services we take for granted as our rights as citizens. It is doing this by requiring them to sign away control over their communities and by using ABA moneys to pay for townplanning services which are normally provided by local government.
    Proposed section 28C means that the minister can delegate powers if a land council refuses to do so. This is not delegation; this is a mechanism to strip and reallocate the core functions given to land councils under the act.
    We support the concerns of the Minerals Council of Australia - it is very
    unusual for the Greens to support concerns of the Minerals Council of Australia - that
    the ABA moneys are increasingly being seen as a substitute for government funding of
    basic social services.

    Senator Gary Humphries (LP) (spoke on the 8th and 9th August)
    The bill represents an important step towards enabling Indigenous people in the Northern Territory to obtain an economic advantage from the land which, over the last 30 years, under the land rights legislation, has been transferred to the ownership of those Aboriginal people. It is important that we therefore consider in this legislation a shift in the paradigm whereby such land might be used for the benefit of its traditional owners. The fact remains that it has been the case that that land has, for the most part, not been available for such economic exploitation, and this has unquestionably worked to the disadvantage of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory.
    Traditional owners have the power under these proposals to set lease conditions and retain freehold title to the land. It is not about the alienation of Indigenous land - at least not for more than 99 years.
    The dynamics which these changes engineer are ones which permit a use of land which is much closer to that which occurs in other parts of Australia. For instance, it will be possible now for individual Indigenous people or families to obtain ownership, at least for 99 years, of a parcel of land.
    The fact is that some land councils in the Northern Territory are keen for these
    provisions to be available; some are ready to take advantage of these provisions and to put in place arrangements for better commercial use of land and for ownership to be transferred to people who live in those townships under the 99-year lease arrangement. I think it is unconscionable for the Senate to stand in the way of those arrangements merely because some people in other parts of the Northern Territory may not be in a position to take up and use those arrangements immediately.
    If [leasehold] works in other parts of Australia and if it is acceptable as a device for the commercial exploitation of land in other parts of Australia, why is it not acceptable on Aboriginal land?
    I have no reason to believe that the principles that work in other parts of Australia would not work in these communities as well.
    I make the observation that if we stood against any legislation in this place which had the potential to be misused, which had the potential to be wrongly applied by individual governments from time to time, we would not pass a great deal of the legislation that comes before this House.
    If there is some sort of conspiracy here to deprive Indigenous people in the Northern Territory of some rights over their land, it is a conspiracy in which obviously the Northern Territory government is at least to some extent a partner. I said that we should look at the benefits in this legislation, not the potential for harm, and I believe that is the case.
    I note that in my case, and I suspect it is the case for other senators, there was almost no correspondence on this legislation before the weekend and now there is a flood of it. I think that reflects more the power of sites such as GetUp! than necessarily a genuine basis of concern in the rest of the community. I do not think that people, though, ought to take their information from one single source, a source which has been universally critical of the present federal government, and consider it to be the only source of information to use for finding out about important reforms such as this.

    There are were also speeches on the subject by Senators Crossin, Adams, Moore, Wortley, Stephens, O'Brien, Scullion, and Kemp.
  • edited January 1970
    Mal Brough has been on the Tiwi Islands discussing the head lease scheme with locals. While there, he said, "In the event that the Northern Territory either changed its mind or, for whatever reason, was unable to establish the [head lease] entity, we have that legislative framework already in place." This would mean I think that the federal government good negotiate leases directly with local communities.
    MAL BROUGH: We are trying to find a way to help you realise your dreams and what is holding back people in so many communities in Australia is this, I know it's a horrible word, called land tenure.

    TIWI MAN: Will traditional owners have a say in time line for decision making?

    TIWI MAN 2: Is for everyone, all Tiwi people, we all speak one language, we all speak Tiwi.

    TIWI MAN 3: Part of the problem has been we still don't know who the lessee of such a land will be. We don't know the price.

    From the transcript for AM on National Radio "Fed Govt pushes private ownership scheme for Tiwi Islands", 09.11.06
  • edited January 1970
    This government have made their way by simply not listening to these submissions in other cases, and ramming things through the senate. If this does go through, we need to keep an eye on what companies are moving in to take advantage of the legislation and to target them. As a former post has pointed out, companies are often more receptive to these sorts of discussions than the government themselves. When a community is threatened, and opposes an incursion, we should be there to support this community by targetting the company in their city HQ and on the land itself. Although, after reading Susan's document, I suspect these changes will come only gradually, bit by bit, as individual community members make deals on the outside, and this will lead to the loss of indigenous country through that subtle erosion of community that the market has proved itself so effective at.
  • edited January 1970
    HREOC Mailing List Service
    Indigenous Issues
    11 May 2007

    The Tiwi People have bowed to federal Government wishes and given away their
    right to control their coastal township of Nguiu in a move which could have
    far-reaching consequences, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social
    Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, said today.

    “I respect the right of the Tiwi traditional owners to make this decision,
    however I have real concerns about the timeliness and level of information
    that has been given to this community to provide informed consent in the
    lead-up to their agreement on Wednesday of a 99-year government head lease
    over Nguiu,” Mr Calma said.

    “This arrangement now means Nguiu is open for business to anyone who wants
    to set up shop. The Tiwi People will now have a limited say in what can
    occur on their land.

    “When I visited Nguiu in January this year and asked a community meeting of
    150 people whether they understood the 99 year lease proposal, only one
    person said they did, and yet the federal Government has rushed this plan

    “The government has effectively given the Tiwi one million dollars worth of
    health services, a new school and some improvements to recreational areas in
    exchange for control over their land.

    “Every Australian citizen has a right to appropriate housing and health
    services - no-one should have to trade their land for these essential
    services,” Mr Calma said.

    “Some of the services offered address longstanding and urgent needs facing
    the Tiwi people ­ these are overdue. But they should never have been made
    contingent in this way.

    “The package of measures agreed by the government also includes funding for
    a needs analysis for the Tiwi islands. If the government is genuine in its
    efforts to address the issues faced by the Tiwi, they will need to continue
    to act on the outcomes of this planning over coming years ­ it can’t be a
    one off initiative.”

    Mr Calma said the new arrangement stripped the Tiwi of their power to stop
    development that offended their cultural and environmental sensibilities in
    return for houses and services.

    “On top of this, the government has paid for this by dipping its hands into
    the Aboriginal Benefit Account ­ effectively using Aboriginal money to pay
    for this head lease. If the government is genuinely interested in helping
    the Tiwi and other Indigenous Australians then they should dip into the $10
    billion surplus and establish future funds in each community to ensure that
    the initiatives live longer than the life of the government.

    “I challenge the architects of this plan to look at Nguiu in 15 years time
    and assess whether the Tiwi are better off after this deal. I think we’ll
    find that non-Tiwi people are the main beneficiaries.”

    Commissioner Calma said the actions of today would have important
    implications for tomorrow.

    “In my view, this is a betrayal of future generations and goes against
    everything for which we as First Nations People have fought,” Mr Calma said.
  • edited January 1970
    Withhold half the incomes of politicians in Canberra and ban alcohol in Parliament House for the criminal neglect of Aboriginal Children by the Dog Whistler
  • edited January 1970
    This is not directly related to the Land issue, but it is another way to attempt against the sovereignty of indigenous people—once again:

    NZ MP attacks Govt over 'racist military invasion'
    A New Zealand Maori Party MP who has called Australia's Prime Minister a "racist bastard" has arrived in Alice Springs to protest against the Commonwealth's intervention in Aboriginal communities.

    Legislation supporting the Northern Territory intervention was passed by the House of Representatives last night.

    The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough had hoped the new laws would be in place this week, but the Government has now agreed to a one-day Senate inquiry on Friday.

    Hone Harawira says he has come to Central Australia to highlight what he describes as a racist military invasion.

    "Tomorrow is world Indigenous people's day and yesterday your government decided to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act so they could ram through the legislation to take over the Territory," he said.

    "I think it suggests that in 2007, this country's got a bloody long way to go."

    Mr Harawira has also hit out at the Opposition, accusing them of political cowardice.

    "If they had have decided to make a stand on it and force it to drag on and make it a bigger election issue, I think it would have put [Mr] Howard in a position where he probably would have had to step back from what he is doing.

    "But because Labor has rolled over and played dead on this, Howard's going to get away with it all and the people who will suffer are going to be the local people of the land from around this Territory."
    source ABC
  • edited January 2008
    Now that the rascist bastard has exited stage right, is there any more news on this issue. Is Rudd going to roll back on this one?
  • edited 4:24PM
    passing on a comment from Sue:

    There was a recent (unsuccessful) attempt to pass an Emergency Intervention Consolidation Bill. Schedule 3 of that Bill was about reinstating the permit system.

    Unfortunately, the bill has been defeated in its second reading in the Senate and is now back in the Lower house.

    If you want to do anything about this issue, the time is right to lobby your minister.
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