Aboriginal land is privately owned. It is not Crown land, nor public land. Permission must be obtained in accordance with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 before going onto Aboriginal Land. This includes access to tidal waters over Aboriginal land.
Commonwealth and Northern Territory law says that entry to Aboriginal land requires a written permit. 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 $1,000.
The Northern Land Council is responsible for administering the permit system for traditional owners in the Top End. The NLC permit system is designed to help protect the privacy of Aboriginal communities, preserve Aboriginal culture, safeguard the natural environment and promote visitor safety.
Chief Minister's permits are issued by the Northern Territory Government to Government officers carrying out duties under an Act of Parliament.
Depending on your purpose, you will require either a:
- Work, Transit, Recreational fishing and Tourist Permit;
- Research Permit;
- Media Permit; or a
- Commercial Film, Video, Photography, Audio Record or Book.
The issuing and revocation of permits remains a matter for the Land Councils and traditional Aboriginal owners and the coordination with local police in relation to prosecutions.
The major exceptions are for government workers and contractors and for the general public visiting common areas in the 52 major NT Aboriginal communities on Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act.