Australian Government – Office of Township Leasing


What is a Township Lease?

A Township Lease is negotiated between the Australian Government and the Traditional Owners in the Township represented by the respective Aboriginal Land Council and the Land Trust.  The lease term can range from 40 to 99 years. The Executive Director, Office of Township Leasing signs the lease on behalf of the Australian Government and then manages the lease in accordance with his/her statutory responsibilities and in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in the Township Lease. 

Why would my town want a Township Lease?

A Township Lease primarily provides certainty of tenure over the land within the Township.  The land itself remains the property of the Traditional Owners but is leased to the Executive Director to manage on a long term basis.  “Certainty of tenure” means that organisations who want to enter into a sub lease over land within the Township now have some certainty that they can operate their business activity for the life of their sub lease.  This means the businesses will be more willing to set up and operate within the Township and lending organisations will be more likely to provide loan facilities to these businesses.  The long term lease also allows community members to effectively purchase their own homes – should they wish to.

What does the Office of Township Leasing do?

The Office of Township Leasing manages the long term lease over the Township.

Briefly it:

  • undertakes a complete survey of the Township down to individual lot level
  • establishes a Consultative Forum to discuss issues of importance to the Township;
  • negotiates sub leasing arrangements with existing occupiers (business organisations, Government bodies and Community organisations);
  • works with the Land Council and the Land Trust to promote economic development, and
  • promotes access to home ownership for interested people within the community.

What can a Township Lease do for my community?

Township Leases can encourage:

  • new businesses in communities
  • new jobs for local people, and
  • home ownership.

What is the Consultative Forum?

Under each head lease the Executive Director Township Leasing is required to establish a Consultative Forum.  The Consultative Forum has a membership comprising representatives of the Land Council and the Office of Township Leasing.  The forum meets regularly and provides advice to the Executive Director Township Leasing about issues of importance to the Township.  The Consultative Forum is a very important mechanism for keeping the Executive Director aware of emerging issues within the Township.

Who can sign a lease?

A Lease can only be signed by the Traditional Owners of the land following extensive consultation within each community. 

Do Traditional Owners have a say in how their land is used?

The Lease agreement sets out the terms and conditions which binds the parties.  The lease covers issues such as:

  • the identification and right of access of community members to general access areas
  • respect for aboriginal culture and tradition
  • access to sacred sites, and
  • the operation of the permit system.

Traditional Owners also have the opportunity to work with the Office of Township Leasing in managing issues which emerge through participation in the Consultative Forum. 

Are sacred sites affected by a Township Lease?

Parts of a Township which are sacred sites, or close to sacred sites, are identified through an Aboriginals Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) certificate and strict rules are in place about what can happen on, or near, sacred sites.

About the Executive Director

The Office of the Executive Director was established by the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Township Leasing) Act 2007 and came into effect on 1 July 2007. Under the Act the Executive Director is a statutory office holder and is appointed by the Governor-General for a period not exceeding five years.
The functions of the Executive Director are to:

  • enter into Township Leases on behalf of the Commonwealth
  • administer Township Leases, including administering subleases, and
  • manage other rights and interests derived from Township Leases.

The Executive Director reports directly to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The position of the Executive Director is currently held by Mr Greg Roche.