Crown Lands and the Aboriginal Land Rights Act

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW) was established to return land in NSW to Aboriginal peoples through a process of lodging claim for certain Crown lands. As such, the management and disposal of Crown Lands is a key issue for Aboriginal Land Councils as it provides a compensatory mechanism for the dispossession of traditional lands from Aboriginal peoples. More information about Crown lands and the Aboriginal Land Rights Act is available here.

Crown Lands Review

In June 2012 the NSW Government commenced a review into the management of Crown land. The Review was overseen by a government inter-agency steering committee with an independent Chair. Limited details about the conduct and scope of the review were made public. The terms of reference of the Review were to identify and recommend:

  • Key public benefits derived from Crown land
  • The NSW Government's future role in the management and stewardship of Crown land
  • The basis of an appropriate return on the Crown estate, including opportunities to enhance revenue
  • Business, financial and governance structures that enable achievement of desired outcomes within financial and resources constraints
  • Opportunities for efficiency improvement and cost reduction, consistent with red tape reduction objectives and accountability
  • Introduction by the NSW Government of incentives to enable the Crown Lands Division to manage and develop the Crown estate in line with NSW Government objectives
  • A contemporary legislative framework. 

Government proposals for new Crown Lands legislation

In late March 2014 the NSW Government released the Crown Lands Legislation White Paper which proposes a number of changes to the way that Crown land is owned and managed. The White Paper responds to recommendations made by the Review and makes a series of proposals regarding the consolidation of legislation including the Crown Lands Act 1989, the Continued Tenures Act and the Western Lands Act.

A summary of the Review's recommendations and the Government response can be accessed here.

NSWALC position

In response to the Government proposals the Council of NSWALC released a Network Message and developed an initial  policy position.

NSWALC has identified a number of significant issues with the proposals outlined in the White Paper including proposed new Objects, proposed changes to the way that Crown Land is managed and owned, protection of Aboriginal culture and heritage, engagement with the Aboriginal Land Rights network, and potential impacts of the proposed changes on the ability to make Aboriginal Land Claims under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 into the future.  

Public submissions to the white paper closed on 20 June 2014. NSWALC made a comprehensive submission to the review process available here.

Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill  2014

On the 21 October 2014 the Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill 2014  was introduced into the NSW Legislative Assembly. The Government did not consult with NSWALC prior to the introduction of the Bill.

The Bill proposed  to  allow the NSW Government to classify broad areas of land as no longer claimable under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW). The Government took the view that it needed to develop legislation (the Bill) to retrospectively provide that beach and coastal areas currently the subject of an Aboriginal land claim, and that have the potential to be claimed under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act  (ALRA), could not be granted. This Bill significantly undermined the objectives of the ALRA The Bill was a disproportionate response to the issue of an Aboriginal Land Council claiming unused and unneeded coastal Crown land.

On 4 November the NSW Government withdrew the Bill. The withdrawal of the Bill came as a result of opposition to the Bill in the Legislative Council and a day after more than 500 Aboriginal Land Council members rallied in opposition to the Bill outside NSW Parliament. Minister Humphries has indicated that the Bill will be reintroduced after consultation.

More information

Please visit the NSW Trade and Investment website for more information about the Government's proposals:

Any LALC wishing to discuss the NSWALC position or the Government's proposals can contact the NSWALC Policy Unit on 02 9689 4444 or via email at