The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (The Land Rights Act) was passed by the Australian Parliament in December 1976 after years of political struggle by Aboriginal people to have their rights to land recognised. The Land Rights Act is a piece of Commonwealth legislation that applies only to the Northern Territory. This important and historic law recognises the Aboriginal system of land ownership by Traditional Land Owners and provides ways for them to own, control and use the resources of their land.
Aboriginal land is held communally by a land trust, and Traditional Owners manage their land with the help of their land council. Aboriginal land is a form of ‘inalienable’ freehold, which means it cannot be bought or sold. However, long term leases can be granted by a land trust for many different purposes.
In 2007, amendments to the Land Rights Act introduced the position of the Executive Director of Township Leasing and a new way to administer the land within a community or ‘Township’ on Aboriginal land. The Executive Director holds long term leases over Townships on Aboriginal land on behalf of the Australian Government, the land council and land trust. The Executive Director also holds leases for other purposes, such as housing, over Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory.
Suggested reading for more background on the Land Rights Act: