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NLC cautiously welcomes White Paper

Posted: Thu, June 18, 2015

NLC CEO Joe Morrison (left - and Leonard Norman)

THE Northern Land Council has cautiously welcomed the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, released today by the Federal Government.

"It's a matter of immediate comfort that the White Paper does not attack the basic integrity of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act," said NLC CEO, Joe Morrison, from Barunga.

"The White Paper does favour more township leases in the Northern Territory, but it appears to allow for some flexibility about the entity which would hold the head lease over a township on Aboriginal land.

"The NLC remains opposed to the Federal Government model which would vest township leases with a Commonwealth officer, the Executive Director of Township Leasing.

"However, I note that the White paper suggests that a head lease could alternatively be held by a community entity. As long as that sort of entity was representative of Aboriginal Traditional Owners who would hold the head lease over a township, the NLC could be prepared to consider such an alternative model."

The White Paper proposes the delegation of certain Land Council functions to Aboriginal corporations to facilitate local decision making, but Mr Morrison said the NLC is already moving down that track within its own structures.

"The NLC Full Council meeting in Barunga this week has been seriously focused on how it can delegate powers to its Executive and Regional councils so that proposals for development on Aboriginal land can be expedited. This would further empower the Executive Council especially, and improve our approval processes," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison welcomed the commitment of money to bring Native Title claims to finality and to fund local Native Title corporations. But, he said, a proposal in the White Paper to simplify Native Title processes must not be a guise for diminishing communal decision-making and the rights of Native Title holders.

The NLC also welcomed the signing yesterday of the free trade agreement with China.

"The White Paper notes that the booming economies of south-east Asia and southern China are within three to five hours flying time from Darwin," Mr Morrison said.

"Aboriginal people want to share the advantage that flows from that proximity, and from the opportunities that will flow from the agreement with China, recalling that Indigenous people in northern Australia had the first international trade with Macassan fishermen, trading trepang many hundreds of years prior to British arrival."