Land rights

After many years of struggle Aboriginal law and land rights were finally recognised in Australian law in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA).

Gurindji leader Vincent Lingiari has sand poured into his hands by then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1965.

It is often referred to as the Land Rights Act. This act recognises our rights to land and sets up processes to win back our land through Land Councils, and manage its resources.

Importantly, the act is the first attempt by an Australian government to legally recognise the Aboriginal system of land ownership and put into law the concept of inalienable freehold title. This has allowed Aboriginal people to retain and in some cases re-establish their cultural identity, while at the same time contributing to the peaceful and responsible development of the Northern Territory.

The Land Rights Act sets down detailed procedures for:

  • the negotiation of mining agreements on Aboriginal land and the application of laws for mining on Aboriginal land
  • funding of Land Councils through the Aboriginal Benefits Account (previously Aboriginal Benefits Reserve)
  • a number of minor but important provisions, such as roads and entry onto Aboriginal land, a protection of sacred sites and protection of traditional rights over land
  • the application of NT laws and complementary NT legislation