NSW Aboriginal Land Council Celebrates the 38th Anniversary of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act

10 June 2021

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) today celebrates the 38th anniversary of the proclamation of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (1983) (ALRA), a key piece of legislation that created a process to return land to Aboriginal people, established a system of independent Aboriginal Land Councils and recognised the dispossession of Aboriginal people in NSW.

The NSW Parliament passed the ALRA on 10 June 1983, which also saw NSWALC formally constituted as a statutory corporation, six years after its establishment as a grassroots Land Rights organisation in Redfern in 1977.

The NSWALC’s lobbying efforts played a pivotal role in the eventual passage of the ALRA, with the interim Council holding its inaugural meeting on 9 June 1983, the day before the proclamation of the Act.

NSWALC Chairperson, Councillor Anne Dennis paid tribute to community members who devoted many years to the fight for Land Rights.

 “I cannot and must not forget the determination, tenacity and foresight of the Land Rights Legends who fought for this critical legislation in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I am proud that NSWALC continues to build upon their legacy through commitment to cultural, social and economic independence for our people.

Today, NSWALC remains the largest member-based Aboriginal organisation in Australia with over 25,000 members. We continue to provide support for a network of 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils and by extension, serve the needs of over 230,000 Aboriginal people in NSW.

As we reflect on the anniversary of the ALRA proclamation, I commend the determination of the Land Rights network in building on the Act’s key principles to secure a strong future for our people,” she said.

The NSWALC CEO James Christian PSM expressed his pride that NSWALC continues to meet the challenges of building a sustainable economic base for Aboriginal people in NSW.

“The return of land to Aboriginal people continues to provide opportunities to strengthen us culturally and spiritually and to provide our own revenue streams, jobs and training opportunities.

As of June 2021, NSWALC has made more than 53,000 land claims and I am pleased to say that positive steps are being made with Crown Land in resolving outstanding land claims. And we continue to push for legislative reform surrounding the protection and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage,” he said.

NSWALC key achievements 2019–20

Land Claims

NSWALC has lodged more than 53,000 land claims since the commencement of the ALRA. As of April 2020, 3,274 land claims were granted in whole or in part since 1983. 271 land claims were granted in whole or in part between April 2020 – April 2021.

COVID-19 Response

NSWALC launched an unprecedented statewide emergency assistance program across 2020 In partnership with Woolworths and the NSW Government, to send 4,600 food and hygiene relief boxes to vulnerable community members in isolated Aboriginal communities.

Bushfire Assistance for Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs)

NSWALC endorsed a comprehensive support and assistance package for LALCs in January 2020. Immediate support included the establishment of Local Bushfire Support Coordinators, who assisted LALCs and community members to access mainstream and Aboriginal-specific funds and support.

In the longer term, NSWALC continues to assist LALCs to manage construction projects as well as supporting LALCs to identify and assess Aboriginal Culture and Heritage sites impacted by the bushfires.

Closing the Gap

The NSWALC continues its leadership role in progressing the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and its four Priority Reforms.

Employment, housing and business services

In 2019–20, NSWALC established two new entities to assist in securing stable employment and affordable housing for Aboriginal peoples: NSWALC Housing Limited (NHL) and NSWALC Employment & Training Limited (NET).

NSWALC also established the Yarpa Indigenous Business and Employment Hub in Liverpool, which now has over 1,100 members. Yarpa connects Indigenous business, entrepreneurs and job seekers with business and employment opportunities throughout NSW.

Grants and Funding areas[i]

  • Since its inception in 2015, the NSWALC Community Fund has committed more than $3,000,000 to support 71 LALCS.
  • The NSWALC State Wide Grants program provided more than $250,000 funding support for a number of statewide events in 2019-2020. Many of the events were postponed due to the COVID-10 pandemic.
  • As part of the LALC Business Enterprise Program in 2019–2020, NSWALC awarded two business development and three early-stage investment grants.
  • 447 Funeral Grants were disbursed to Aboriginal families in 2019-2020.
  • 152 Small Regional Grants assisted Aboriginal people and community groups to participate in regional art and crafts, sporting, cultural and health and wellbeing activities.
  • The NSWALC Fishing Fund awarded grants to two successful applications in 2019-2020, in its support of the growth and development of the Aboriginal Fishing industry.
  • And NSWALC launched the NSWALC Educational Scholarship in 2019, which provides two $10,000 scholarships and a paid internship across NSW for Aboriginal students in their penultimate year at university.

A new database on Aboriginal Culture and Heritage sites

An exciting development with growing sustainable and proactive Culture and Heritage programs is the   Aboriginal Heritage Information Management Systems (AHIMS). AHIMS was made available to LALCS in May 2020 and contains detailed information on over 93,000 registered sites of Aboriginal Culture and Heritage significance across NSW.

Key collaborations

NSWALC is an active member of the NSW Coalition of Peaks (NSWCAPO), the National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks) and the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance (FNHPA).

Media Enquiries: media@alc.org.au


[i] Source: The NSW Aboriginal Land Council Annual Report 2019-2020