Australian Government – Office of Township Leasing

Township Leasing on Indigenous Land

The Australian Government is committed to pursuing land reform for townships on Indigenous land in a manner that respects cultural links to land and traditional land holding systems, and delivers a system of improved housing, infrastructure and service delivery. Land reform will also ensure a solid basis is established for future economic development, private investment and home ownership.

Why land tenure reform?

In the past, government and non-government organisations have invested in fixed assets on Indigenous owned land without routinely securing tenure over these assets. Any construction on Indigenous land has belonged to the land owners, regardless of the funding source.  Governments in particular have continued to build and use funded assets, relying on permissive occupancy for access to and control of assets.

Through the National Partnership Agreements on Remote Indigenous Housing and Remote Service Delivery  the Australian, State and Territory Governments have committed to the policy of ensuring that secure land tenure arrangements are in place before any major investment in fixed assets, such as housing or infrastructure, is made on Indigenous-held land. Township leasing in the Northern Territory In the Northern Territory, there are a number of options for securing government investment, including housing precinct leases that have been used to secure government investment in social housing.  Communities with these leases are also encouraged to take up the option of a whole-of-township lease, which offers a holistic approach to land-tenure reform.

Approximately half of the land in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA).  ALRA land is communally held and inalienable – it cannot be sold, transferred or subdivided.

Whole-of-township leases reform the way that Aboriginal land can be used.  A township lease allows for the creation of individual and transferable interests in the land (through subleases), leaving the underlying ownership intact and paving the way for economic development and home ownership. 

Township leases negotiated to date

There are township leases in place over Nguiu in the Tiwi Islands (99 years), and Angurugu, Umbakumba and Milyakburra in the Groote Eylandt region (effectively 80 years). 

Fact sheets

The following factsheets are designed to provide further information for individuals and communities about the purpose and operation of township leasing in the Northern Territory.