Our corporate structure

The NLCremains the paramount body through which the Aboriginal people of the Top End make their voices heard on issues which impact upon their land, seas and communities. The Land Rights Act continues to be the strongest foundation on which to build social, cultural and economic growth for Traditional Owners.

The Northern Land Council corporate structure 2017

The NLC’s supreme body, the Full Council, has 78 elected members, plus five co-opted women. The entire elected arm of the NLC is known as the Full Council, which comprises 78 members across seven NLC Regions representing 54 communities, outstations or area. Five additional co-opted women’s positions are included in the Full Council, making a total of 83 members.

Elections are held every three years. Full Council meetings are held twice each year, when Councillors determine policies and directions, approve land use agreements and mining and exploration tenements for which Traditional Owners have given their consent.

The NLC Chair, Deputy Chair and an Executive member representing each of the NLC’s seven regions are also elected at the Full Council meeting.

At the first sitting of a new Full Council, Councillors elect a Chair, a Deputy Chair and select
an Executive Member for each region.


The roles and powers of the Full Council, Executive Council and Regional Councils are separate from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and NLC staff.

The Full Council is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the NLC with advice from the CEO. It can delegate its powers to the Executive and Regional Councils.

The CEO is responsible for managing the NLC’s regular operations, implementing Full Council decisions and reporting back to the Full Council.

The Executive Council appoints the CEO who has day-to-day responsibility for the NLC’s administration and operations.  The CEO works closely with the Chair and the Executive Council and is responsible for implementing Full Council decisions, policies and strategies, and enforcing sound corporate governance.

The NLC’s operations are managed by seven branches:

  • Executive: provides policy, communications advice and strategic support to the CEO and Chair, and to the NLC’s elected arms.
  • Legal: provides legal advice to the administrative and elected arms, and to Traditional Owners and conducts land rights and Native Title Claims and negotiates commercial and other agreements
  • Anthropology: identifies and consults with Traditional Owners to secure and protect their rights in land and also takes instructions from Traditional Aboriginal Owners concerning the disbursement of royalty payments accruing through various land use agreements, in accordance with functions defined in the “Acts”. 
  • Regional Development: oversees the NLC’s network of nine regional offices beyond Darwin and provides logistics support for consultations required under the ALRA and Native Title Act.
  • Caring for Country: hosts and provides administrative support to land and sea Ranger Groups, provides policy support and advice on land and sea management issues and supports joint management of National Parks. 
  • Minerals and Energy: is responsible for the provision of advice and oversight of the NLC’s obligations with regard to minerals and petroleum exploration and production and associated activities as they relate to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and Native Title Act. 
  • Corporate Services: delivers financial, information technology, human resource, information management and administrative support to the other branches, including fleet and facilities management. Corporate Services is also responsible for corporate compliance under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act and the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

Two specialist committees are included in the NLC structure:

  • the Women’s Sub-Committee: a sub-committee of the Full Council to facilitate discussions, priorities and issues relevant to Aboriginal women in the region; and
  • the Audit Committee: comprises three independent members (including an independent Chairperson) and two NLC council representatives. The committee oversees good governance and the management of risk.

Our relationships with government and non- government organisations are important for delivering our goals and objectives. Some of these key stakeholders include:

  • Australian Government;
  • Northern Territory Government;
  • Local Government Shires;
  • Industries: Mineral, Petroleum, Pastoral, Tourism and Fishing;
  • Businesses; and
  • Non-Government Organisations.