NSWALC welcomes State Government commitment to act on land claims backlog

12 September, 2023

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) welcomes the State Government’s commitment to act on the land claims backlog in the State.

The Premier, the Hon. Chris Minns, spoke on 2GB yesterday morning, where he acknowledged the high number of undetermined land claims, and also the time it was taking for these claims to be determined by Crown Lands.

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.

Under the ALRA, Local Aboriginal Land Councils can have land returned to them, subject to the land meeting strict criteria. Claimable lands include land that is not lawfully used or occupied, land that is not needed nor likely to be needed as residential lands, land that is not needed nor likely to be needed, for an essential public purpose, amongst other criteria.

“While the mainstream non-Aboriginal media may be shocked by the decades it’s been taking to resolve undetermined land claims in NSW, this is the daily reality for our Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs). They are in constant limbo with no resolution in sight for years, and in some cases decades,’’ NSWALC Chairperson Cr Danny Chapman said.

Cr Chapman pointed out that the oldest land claim dates from 1984.

“Any lands returned by claim must meet a strict criterion and its future use is subject to relevant laws, including planning laws. A total of 168,438 hectares of land has been granted since 1983 – to put this in perspective, this is around 0.2% of the state. This reflects the lack of land being returned.”

“Recent media articles and discussions suggest Aboriginal Land Rights is at odds with general property rights. These conversations are misleading and only serve to spread confusion in the public at the expense of Aboriginal people,’’ Cr Chapman said.

Returning land to Aboriginal people provides tangible economic, social and cultural benefits to Aboriginal communities and the broader community. Returning land supports economic development initiatives, stimulating local and regional economies and providing jobs and training opportunities, enables residential housing developments for the broader population, strengthening local communities, addresses food supply and food security issues in remote towns and increases the NSW economy overall by increasing the tax base through employment, business development and home ownership.

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.

Land claims in NSW and Native Title

Native title rights are different to, and separate from, the statutory right of Local Aboriginal Land Councils to make claims for land under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983

  • Native title legislation is about recognising Aboriginal peoples’ connection and existing rights to land and water.
  • Aboriginal land rights legislation in NSW is about compensating Aboriginal people for past dispossession, dislocation and removal of land.


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.