Commonwealth and Northern Territory law says that entry to Aboriginal land requires a written permit. The Northern Land Council is responsible for administering the permit system for traditional owners in the Top End.

Aboriginal people have the legal right to grant or refuse permission to people wishing to enter or travel through their land. Unauthorised entry to Aboriginal land and waters in the Northern Territory can result in a fine of up to $2,800.

You need to apply to the NLC for a permit if you wish to undertake any of the following activities on Aboriginal land in the NLC's area:

  • Enter Aboriginal land or waters for any purpose
  • Travel by road through Aboriginal land (Note: this does not apply to public roads)
  • Enter or visit an Aboriginal Community (Note: some exceptions apply)

The NLC Permit Administration System is designed to help protect the privacy of Aboriginal communities, preserve Aboriginal culture, safeguard the natural environment and promote visitor safety. 

Requirements during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Anyone seeking permission to access Aboriginal land must complete a travel declaration as part of their permit application and disclose any relevant health or travel matters for all individuals listed on the application. 

Applicants for work permits should also submit a copy of their approved COVID-19 Safety Plan. Click HERE to access the Northern Territory Government's 'Prepare a COVID-19 Management Plan'. 

The NLC will use this information when deciding whether to grant a permit under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. All applications will be considered on a case by case basis. 

At this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, NLC will not grant permits to enter Aboriginal land for non-essential travel. Essential travel is broadly defined as work-related, including in conjunction with a valid NLC Land Use Agreement, for compassionate grounds, and other special circumstances.

NLC will continue with its current permitting policies and processes beyond September 17 2020, which is the date the Human Biosecurity Emergency period expires, and will not be issuing permits for non-essential travel.

Permit applications for 2021 will be considered from November 2020. 

Applicants who have been in areas of elevated COVID-19 alert within the past 14 days must not enter Aboriginal land.

Apply for a Permit

Click HERE to apply for a Permit.

The NLC manages applications and permits in its Permit Administration System (PAS). This is a self-service system that enables applicants to register and manage their permit requirements online. 

Permit applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis. You must submit all of the required information when lodging an application to enable NLC to decide on your application within 10 business days. Note - complex applications may require additional time. 

For the best experience and online security when using the NLC Permit Administration System, we recommend using one of the following supported desktop browsers - Microsoft Edge, Safari, Firefox and Chrome. User interface issues will occur when using Internet Explorer.

To download a pdf on how to use the Permit Administration System click here.

For a limited time, NLC will continue to support initial permit application by submission of the following permit application pack. Note that this will start a process of registration into the Permit Administration System and ongoing management of the application and potential permit will be an online process.

Click HERE to download the permit application pack.