7 September, 2023
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA) was established to compensate the centuries of dispossession and recognised the enduring disadvantage found within Aboriginal communities. The land claims process provided a compensatory mechanism for the dispossession of land from Aboriginal peoples.
Since the ALRA was enacted in NSW in 1983, nearly 55,000 land claims have been lodged by NSW Aboriginal Land Council and Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs).
A total of 168,438 hectares of land has been granted – to put this in perspective, this is around 0.2% of the state.
More than 38,000 claims remain undetermined or partly determined by Crown Lands. The Auditor-General noted in 2022 that based on current targets, it would take Crown Lands nearly 22 years to process the unresolved claims.
“While people are up in arms about the potential of land claims in their area, what’s more concerning for us, is the lack of land being returned.
The undetermined land claims and ongoing uncertainty puts LALCs in a holding pattern, unable to plan for the future and unlock the benefits of our land,” NSWALC Chairperson Cr Danny Chapman said.
Without wanting to comment on the specifics on claims being determined, Cr Chapman pointed to the oldest outstanding claim lodged by Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council in September 1984 over the Brewarrina Common.
There is strict non-discretionary criteria under which Aboriginal land claims can be made/assessed in accordance with section 36(1) of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. This statutory criteria is largely a question of fact.
If land is found to be claimable under the Act it will be transferred to the relevant Local Aboriginal Land Council as freehold land, which it can then use to support economic, social and cultural outcomes. The use and activation of land must be in accordance with the planning laws, like every other landowner in the state.
Activation of land in NSW remains a major strategic priority of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the Land Rights Network.
Comments linking the Balmoral land claim to the Voice
NSWALC strongly challenges claims made by former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, that land claims would “accelerate and intensify” should the Voice be established.
The proposed Voice is a body set up to advise the Commonwealth Government on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues and concerns.
Land claims in NSW are determined by Crown Lands under non-discretionary criteria of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.
“A successful Voice will have absolutely no bearing on land claims being made in NSW, and it is completely wrong to attempt to link the two and try and create fear and division,’’ Cr Chapman said.
Background on NSWALC
In 1983 the NSW parliament passed the ALRA. This gave LALCs and NSWALC right to make claims on Crown Lands. If lands are not used, occupied or needed they are claimable.
NSWALC and the land council network is self-funded.