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.
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The NLC permit system is designed to be easy to use for applicants. It helps protect the privacy of Aboriginal communities, preserve Aboriginal culture, safeguard the natural environment and promote visitor safety and amenity.
Aboriginal people have the legal right to grant or refuse permission to people wishing to enter or travel through their land. Some people with specific roles have an exemption or a defence while they are working in that role on Aboriginal land.
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 private road on Aboriginal land
- Enter or visit an Aboriginal Community
How to apply
You can now manage your permits online. We encourage you to register for the NLC permit system. This will make your permit process faster and more efficient. For guidelines on how to use the Permit Administration System (PAS) see: How to use PAS.
Recreation applications are temporarily unavailable online. For special circumstances, please download the permit application pack from the NLC website.
Fishing Aboriginal waters
Permission is required to enter Aboriginal land and waters, including for recreational fishing. Permission to fish in Aboriginal waters is provided via agreements with Traditional Aboriginal Owners, or using Recreational Fishing Permits administered by the NLC.
Visit our Fishing Aboriginal Waters page for all information concerning access to Aboriginal waters as of 1 January 2023.
Permit application process
Your application for an NLC permit must specify the purpose of your visit, the dates, places and access routes, and your vehicles, passengers and accommodation. The NLC will consider your application and seek approval from relevant traditional Aboriginal owners.
Please allow up to 10 days for processing and contact us about access restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. If we require additional time to consider your application, we will let you know, eg complex applications, such as some research and media applications.
Permit contact centre
If you have any questions about the system or the application process, please use our contact centre to record your query and an NLC staff member will get in touch as soon as possible. You can use the contact centre without being logged-in. Otherwise, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 645 299.
|Work||Work types include general, essential, mining, tourism (under a s19 agreement), research and media. Applicants for work permits need to provide their purpose, locations and time frame of their work.|
|Visitor||Permit holders who have been invited to visit friends or family living in an Aboriginal community.|
|Recreation||Permit holders can access recreation areas on Aboriginal land for recreation purposes.|
|Transit||Permit holders can access specific private roads on Aboriginal land during the dates listed on their permit.|
|Residential||Permit holders can reside on Aboriginal land, usually in a community, but also in a workers' camp, and commercial or staff accommodation.|
Closures for cultural reasons, such as funerals and ceremonies, do occur at short notice. Please respect these cultural traditions. We will send an email and/or text message to relevant permit holders about any closures that occur in their permitted areas. Please keep your contact details up to date.
Entry without a permit
Unauthorised entry could result in a fine of 50 penalty units (currently $11,100) under Commonwealth law, or 8 penalty units (currently $1,264) under Northern Territory law. The acceptance of insurance claims on Aboriginal land may rely on a valid permit.
Permit Administration System (PAS) – How to use PAS
Standard Permit Terms and Conditions