NSWALC Welcomes Audit Report into Aboriginal Land Claim Processes in NSW

28 April 2022

NSWALC Welcomes Audit Report into Aboriginal Land Claim Processes in NSW

Today 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.

The Report’s findings reinforce long-standing concerns that NSWALC and the Land Rights network have consistently raised over more than a decade.

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.
  • That based on current targets, it will take the DPE approximately 22 years to process the existing 38,000+ undetermined land claims.

The lack of progress by Governments in delivering Aboriginal Land Rights outcomes emphasises the need to implement additional, transformative measures to effect real change, designed and delivered in partnership with NSWALC and Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs).

Governments must urgently address the issues identified in the report, accelerate the return of lands to Aboriginal Land Councils and actively support the activation of lands, in line with its commitments to Closing the Gap.

While NSWALC agrees with the Audit Office that further work is essential for governments to deliver on their obligations, we are concerned that the latest recommendations are not sufficient to address the scale of the problems governments have created.

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

We also thank the LALCs who participated in the Audit Office consultations. Your knowledge and expertise are invaluable to the Land Rights Network.

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

The NSWALC:

  • 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