Permit FAQs

General Information

1. What is a permit?

A permit is a written document authorised by NLC on advice of the Traditional Owners that sets out permission, terms and conditions to enter the private land and/or intertidal waters of a group of Aboriginal people.

2. What does my permit allow me to do?

Permits generally only provide for entry and access to Aboriginal land. This means that unless your permit includes specific conditions that allow for other activities (eg. fishing, hunting, camping, commercial filming) you do not have permission to engage in such activities. If you want to engage in particular activities you need to include that in your permit application.

3. Are permits legally required?

Yes. Commonwealth and Northern Territory law states that entry to Aboriginal land requires a written permit. Aboriginal land is privately owned and permission to enter must be sought under the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Act 1978. This includes access to intertidal waters over Aboriginal land.

4. What is the permit system?

The permit system manages and regulates access to traditional lands. People visiting Aboriginal land for work, recreation, transit or residence apply for access through the permit system. The permit system enables permit holders to understand their obligations and responsibilities, be safe and informed, and create beneficial experiences when visiting Aboriginal land. The permit system shows Traditional Owners who is on their country, who is coming, and what those visitors can and can’t do.

5. Why have a permit system?

Aboriginal land is private land. It is not Crown land, nor public land. Aboriginal people have the legal right to grant or refuse permission to people wishing to enter or travel through their land. The permit system enables Traditional Owners to set the rules about who can come on to their land.

6. Who should get a permit?

All persons who wish to enter onto or remain on Aboriginal land or use a private road on Aboriginal land for any purpose need a permit. Asking for permission first is the right way to access Aboriginal land. The Northern Land Council encourages all visitors to apply for a permit even though some exemptions and defences may apply. An Aboriginal person who is entitled by Aboriginal tradition to enter or remain on that area may do so without a permit.

7. Does a permit have to be in writing?

Yes. A permit to enter onto and remain on Aboriginal land has to be in writing and cannot be transferred. A visitor must produce their permit when requested, either on paper (hard copy) or on an electronic device (soft copy).

8. What activities need a permit?

A permit is needed for the following activities on Aboriginal land:

• Enter Aboriginal land for any purpose

• Travel by road through Aboriginal land

• Enter or visit an Aboriginal Community

• Stay overnight or longer on Aboriginal land

9. If a Traditional Owner has given me permission to visit a community do I still need a permit?

Yes, you still need a written permit. Traditional Owners may issue a permit, however the permit must be in writing. If you get a verbal invitation from a Traditional Owner contact your nearest Northern Land Council office to enquire about getting it in writing.

10. Is there a charge for a permit?

In most cases, there is no charge for a permit. Traditional Owners have set access and camping fees for some locations.

Travelling on Aboriginal Land

1. Do people travelling with me in the same vehicle need to apply for an individual permit?

No. If you are all travelling together on the one trip, then one traveller can apply for the permit on behalf of everyone. All people need to be listed on the application and abide to the terms and conditions of the permit issued to the permit holder. Each person should carry a copy of the permit in case they are asked to present it.

2. We’re travelling in a convoy of several vehicles, does each vehicle need to apply for a permit?

Yes. The NLC recommends that there is one application per vehicle when travelling in a convoy.

3. Do I need a permit to travel to the Cox Peninsular?

Check the Kenbi Open Area Declaration Map to find out where you need a permit. There are some areas where access, including fishing, is prohibited and other areas where restricted access, fishing and camping is permitted without a permit.

4. Which roads are permit free on the Cox Peninsular?

You do not need a permit to use the following roads and tracks in this area: Cox Peninsula Road, Wagait Tower Road, Charles Point Road, Harney’s Beach Track off Charles Point Road, Talc Head Road to Mica Beach off Cox Peninsula Road, Pioneer Beach track off Bynoe Harbour Access Road, Rankin Point track off Bynoe Harbour Access Road, Keswick Point track off Bynoe Harbour Access Road, Tower Beach Road to Masson Point, and Raft Point track off Bynoe Harbour Access Road. All other roads and tracks on Aboriginal land require a permit.

Recreation Permits

1. Is the NLC issuing individual recreation permits?

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, NLC will not generally be issuing individual recreation permits to enter and remain on Aboriginal land.

2. What is the intertidal zone permit waiver?

The intertidal zone permit waiver is an agreement between the Northern Land Council and the Northern Territory Government that allows all recreational fishers and commercial operators to access tidal waters over Aboriginal land without an access permit for a defined period of time. The permit waiver only applies to intertidal waters over Aboriginal land within the Northern Land Council region. You still need a permit if you access Aboriginal land to get to these intertidal areas. Tiwi Land Council and Anindilyakwa Land Council (Groote Eylandt) have different rules for access to their intertidal waters. Visit their websites for more information. For more information read the information sheet on the intertidal zone permit waiver.

3. How long does it take for a permit to be processed?

At least 10 days may be required to consult with Traditional Owners. Complex permit applications, eg. for media and research over large areas of land, may requires more extensive consultation and time. Applicants will be updated on expected timeframes.

4. Can I get a permit on the day?

For same day permit processing over-the-counter you need to visit one of our permit officers during business hours in Katherine, Darwin, Nhulunbuy or Jabiru.

Work Permits

1. Do government employees undertaking government work need a permit?

Yes. All persons who wish to enter onto or remain on Aboriginal land or use a private road on Aboriginal land for any purpose need a permit, including government employees. Government employees and contractors performing government work are protected from prosecution for lacking permits, however this statutory protection under section 70(2D) of Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) should not be confused with a right to enter and remain on Aboriginal land without a permit. Work permits should be sought in all circumstances. Insurance claims may not be valid if a claimant is trespassing.

2. I am a government employee who wants to do recreational activities outside of work hours, do I need a permit?

Yes, you will need to apply for a recreation permit, in addition to any work permit. You will need to select the location and dates you want to visit. Please note, special conditions such as quotas will exist on some locations.

3. I am conducting research on Aboriginal Land, do I need a permit?

Yes. To support the consideration of your permit application, provide, on request, to the NLC a report about the objectives, ethics approval and methodology for the Research Project in a format suitable for presentation to the traditional Aboriginal owners. If your permit is approved, you are required to credit intellectual property rights appropriately. You agree that nothing in the permit is intended to affect or derogate from any rights, title or interest in indigenous cultural expression or intellectual property.

4. Is it possible to get an annual work permit for Aboriginal land?

Yes in some circumstances.