22 Years to Process 38,000 Outstanding Land Claims?

28 April, 2022

22 Years to Process 38,000 Outstanding Land Claims?

NSWALC Welcomes NSW Audit Report into Aboriginal Land Claim Processes

The Auditor-General for NSW released the Performance Audit report ‘Facilitating and administering Aboriginal land claim processes‘.

The Performance Audit reportassessed whether relevant agencies are effectively facilitating and administering Aboriginal land claims. The agencies include the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE); the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC); and NSWALC.

One of the concerning report findings says that based on current targets, it will take the DPE approximately 22 years to process the existing 38,000+ unresolved land claims.

NSWALC’s Chairperson Danny Chapman says successive NSW governments have failed to deliver on the beneficial nature of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALRA).

“The ALRA was designed to provide some compensation for the ongoing effects of Aboriginal dispossession, but governments’ lack of strategy, planning and true partnerships sees us in this place. The Report’s findings reinforce long-standing concerns that NSWALC and the Land Rights network have consistently raised over more than a decade,” he said.

Findings include:

  • The DPE’s failure to meet its statutory requirement and obligation to determine land claims within a reasonable time.
  • The DPE and DPC’s lack of effective processes to manage risks related to the large number of undetermined claims, creating uncertainty that affects land use and development.
  • A lack of accountability around the DPC and DPE’s responsibilities to implement recommendations to improve Aboriginal land claim processes.

Councillor Chapman says Government must urgently address the issues identified in the report.

“The NSW Government must implement transformative measures to effect real change, accelerate the return of lands to LALCs and actively support the activation of lands. And these measures must be designed and delivered in partnership with NSWALC and Aboriginal Land Councils, in line with Closing the Gap commitments,” he said.

NSWALC thanks the Auditor-General for NSW and the NSW Audit Office team for all the work undertaken on the Performance Audit.

NSWALC remains committed to working with the Land Rights Network and governments on meaningful solutions to the huge number of undetermined claims, to deliver positive outcomes for Aboriginal communities in NSW.


  • Calls for more ambitious targets for determining Aboriginal Land Claims and returning land to LALCs. Without more ambitious targets, the Aboriginal Land Claims process is likely to continue along the inefficient path described in the Audit Office report.
  • Would welcome the opportunity to design and deliver a more efficient and targeted approach that reflects equal and genuine partnership arrangements (in line with Closing the Gap commitments). The approach must be outcomes-focused, provide for state-wide strategic direction from NSWALC, have appropriate resourcing and a mechanism for LALCs to provide local level inputs.
  • Will seek to engage with the NSW Government to ensure appropriate partnership arrangements with us, particularly relating to prioritising land claims assessments and developing engagement protocols.

The Report is available at ‘Facilitating and administering Aboriginal land claim processes‘.


Media Enquiries: media@alc.org.au


We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work as well as across the lands we travel through. We also acknowledge our Elders past, present and emerging.

Artwork Credit: Craig Cromelin, from a painting he did titled, "4 favourite fishing holes". It is a snippet of his growing years on the Lachlan River, featuring yabby, turtle, fish and family.