A Township Lease is a voluntary agreement, and negotiations only begin if Traditional Owners have expressed an interest in doing so.
Negotiating a Township Lease
A Township Lease is a voluntary agreement, and negotiations only begin if Traditional Owners have expressed an interest in doing so. Traditional Owners who are interested in a Township Lease for their community can talk to the Australian Government with the help of their land council. The Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for leading Township Lease negotiations.
Traditional Owners, the land trust and the land council commence discussions about details of the Township Lease with the Australian Government, such as the term of the Lease, the area covered, and the benefits to the community.
A Township Lease is a binding agreement for up to 99 years. This is a long term commitment which affects future generations so Traditional Owners need to be sure of their decision. The land council has a statutory role under the Land Rights Act to ensure that Traditional Owners make a fully informed decision. For these reasons, the negotiation of a Township Lease can take some time and many meetings.
Once Traditional Owners and the Australian Government agree to the main points of a proposed Township Lease, they may sign an Agreement in Principle to mark an important step towards the Township Lease. Negotiations on the other details of the Township Lease will continue.
When the terms and conditions of a Township Lease have been agreed by all parties, the ‘Head Lease’ is signed by the land council on behalf of Traditional Owners and the land trust, and the Executive Director of Township Leasing on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Township Lease only comes into effect when all the parties have signed the Head Lease.
Advance payments and Community/Economic Benefits Package
Under the terms of existing Township Leases, an advance payment may be negotiated and paid to Traditional Owners when the Head Lease is signed. This can be used to invest in local enterprises or business opportunities. The advance payment is repaid gradually from rent collected, and when it has been repaid Traditional Owners will start receiving rent payments. The advance payment is repaid over a period of years defined by the Township Lease itself. However, if the advance payment has not been repaid after this time, it is written off and Traditional Owners will start receiving rent payments from that time on. The amount of money paid as an advance payment is agreed with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as part of the Township Lease negotiations.
The whole community also benefits from the signing of a Township Lease through a separate payment specifically for community projects known as the Community Benefits/Economic Package. Projects delivered under this package are usually negotiated and managed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The Executive Director’s role in negotiations
The Executive Director of Township Leasing and the Office of Township Leasing do not negotiate Township Leases. Negotiations are between the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the relevant land council and land trust, and Traditional Owners.
However, the Executive Director and the Office of Township Leasing will often be consulted during negotiations to provide technical advice about how Township Leases work and what administrative and operational matters need to be considered by negotiators. The Executive Director and Office of Township Leasing representatives will often attend negotiations for this purpose.
For more information about a new Township Lease you can:
- Talk with your land council;
- call the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on 02 6271 5111 or visit the website of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, or
- talk with your Government Engagement Coordinator or Indigenous Engagement Officer.
For more information read our fact sheet How can we get a township lease?
Negotiations are an important part of any township lease and can involve a lot of meetings with Traditional Owners, the land council, and government.
Negotiating a township lease can take a long time. This is because it is an agreement for up to 99 years and sets out up-front what the terms and conditions are that need to be included in the lease, so traditional owners and community members need to be fully informed and sure of the decision.
The Executive Director and the Office of Township Leasing does not negotiate township leases with the Traditional Owners. This happens between the Commonwealth Government, the land council and the Traditional Owners.
At the request of the Traditional Owners, the Office of Township Leasing can provide information about the way a township lease works so that they can understand what happens after a township lease is signed.
Negotiations are a voluntary process and normally begin at the request of Traditional Owners.
Before a township lease is signed Traditional Owners can still change their minds. When everyone has agreed the township lease is signed by the land council, the land trust on behalf of the Traditional Owners, and the Executive Director of Township Leasing.
After the township lease is signed Traditional Owners still have their say about land development, sacred sites and planning. This is done by the Executive Director working with the Consultative Forum.