The most important responsibility of the NLC is to consult with traditional landowners and other Aboriginal peoples with an interest in affected land. Landowners must give informed consent before any action is taken to affect their lands and seas.
The Northern Land Council’s statutory obligations under Aboriginal Land Rights Act ALRA include:
- To ascertain and express the wishes of Aboriginal peoples about the management of their land and legislation about their land.
- To protect the interests of traditional owners of, and other Aboriginal people interested in, Aboriginal land.
- To assist Aboriginal peoples to protect sacred sites, whether or not they are on Aboriginal land.
- To consult traditional owners and other Aboriginal peoples interested in Aboriginal land and land under claim.
- To negotiate on behalf of traditional owners with peoples interested in using Aboriginal land or land under claim.
- To assist Aboriginal peoples to carry out commercial activities.
- To assist Aboriginal peoples claiming land and, in particular, arrange and pay for assistance for them.
- To keep a register of Land Council members and members of Aboriginal Land Trusts and description s of Aboriginal land.
- To supervise and assist Aboriginal Land Trusts.
- Attempt to conciliate disputes between Aboriginal peoples regarding land matters.
- Hold in trust and distribute to Aboriginal associations statutory payments from the Aboriginals Benefits Account to communities affected by mining operations and income received on behalf of landowners under negotiated agreements.
- Process applications for permits to enter Aboriginal land.
- Any other functions as prescribed.
The NLC is also the Native Title Representative Body for the northern region – including the Tiwi Islands and Groote Eylandt. This includes land that does not fall under ALRA, such as crown land or other lands in towns, national parks, and land vested in the Northern Territory Land Corporation, pastoral leases and offshore areas.
Functions prescribed under the Native Title Act 1993 include:
- To facilitate the researching, preparation and making of applications, by individuals or groups for determinations of Native Title or for compensation for acts affecting Native Title.
- To assist in the resolution of disagreements among such individuals or groups about the making of such applications.
- To assist such individuals o groups by representing them, if requested to do so, in negotiations and proceeding relating to:
- the doing of acts affecting Native Title;
- the provision of compensation in relation to such acts;
- Indigenous Land Use Agreements or other agreements in relation to Native Title rights of access conferred under the Act or other acts; and
- any other matter relevant to the operation of the Act.
- To certify in writing applications for determinations of Native Title and applications for registration of Indigenous Land Use Agreements relating to areas of land wholly or partly within the region of the representative body.
- To become a party to Indigenous Land Use Agreements after consultation with the Native Title holders of the land or waters subject to the agreement.
The NLC is also authorised to perform functions under Northern Territory law, including:
- Aboriginal Land Act
- Cobourg Peninsular Aboriginal Land, Sanctuary and Marine Act
- Lands and Mining Tribunal Act
- Mining Act
- Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park Act
- Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act
- Pastoral Land Act
- Special Purpose Leases Act
- Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act
The NLC provides services in the following areas:
- Land, sea and natural resource management
- Land claims and land acquisitions
- Economic development and commercial services
- Administration and support services
- Native Title services
The NLC has a long-term policy of supporting regional decision making. To this end, significant resources are directed each year towards maintaining fully-staffed and resourced regional offices. The NLC has regional offices in the seven administrative regions.