Northern Territory

Statistics

Native Title Determinations 99
Native Title does not exist in the determination area 2
Native Title exists in a parts of the determination area 91
Native Title exists in the entire determination area 6
Outcome  
By consent 88
Litigated 11
Unopposed 0
Active Native Title Determination applications 65
Indigenous Land Use Agreements 110
Area Agreements 102
Body Corporate Agreements 8

Native title representative bodies

24 November 2015 - Dancers celebrate the grant of Native Title over a group of pastoral leases in the Northern Territory Gulf Country, Borroloola. Source: Northern Land Council
24 November 2015 - Dancers celebrate the grant of Native Title over a group of pastoral leases in the Northern Territory Gulf Country, Borroloola. Source: Northern Land Council

 
 

Ms Lorraine Jones, Traditional Owner

1 June 2016 - Dancers from Milingimbi, Northern Territory, at the National Native Title Conference in Darwin. Source: Northern Land Council
1 June 2016 - Dancers from Milingimbi, Northern Territory, National Native Title Conference in Darwin. Source: Northern Land Council
24 November 2015 - Native Title holder Keith Rory with Justice John Mansfield at Borroloola on the occasion of the declaration of Native Title over a group of pastoral leases in the Gulf Country. Source: Northern Land Council
24 November 2015 - Native Title holder Keith Rory with Justice Mansfield at Borroloola on the declaration of Native Title over a group of pastoral leases in the Gulf Country. Source: Northern Land Council

Overview

The Northern Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to, in 1976, enact an Aboriginal land rights regime under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (ALRA). Under the ALRA and the NTA, approximately 50 per cent of the land in the Northern Territory has become Aboriginal land, along with approximately 85 per cent of the Territory’s coastline.

The settlement of land claims under the ALRA within the Northern Territory provided a platform for the resolution of native title, with evidence provided in claim books and by witnesses in land claims matters being used to identify additional material which may have been required for native title claims.

The Northern Territory government also established a strategic plan in concert with the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council to seek legal guidance on specific aspects of native title law through a series of test litigated cases. These test cases guided the settlement of similar native title applications. Of the 99 determinations of claimant applications made to date, 88 were consent determinations, many over pastoral leases.

The Territory Government established a policy position of settling native title through negotiated outcomes and published Minimum Connection Material Requirements for Consent Determinations.

The first litigated native title compensation claim was heard in the Northern Territory in the Timber Creek matter in 2016.

Gregory returned to its owners

13 May 2010 - Gregory returned to its Traditional Owners. Source: Central Land Council
13 May 2010 - Gregory returned to its Traditional Owners. Source: Central Land Council

Covering 1.3 million hectares, Jutpurra is the Northern Territory’s biggest park and home to the traditional estates of seven language groups.

It was handed back to its traditional owners during a ceremony at Jasper Gorge near Timber Creek in May 2010.

The handback to traditional owners saw the National Park leased back to Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife for 99 years under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

Traditional owners also agreed on a name change, with land formerly known as Gregory National Park now known as Jutpurra.

Existing Aboriginal land on the Wambardi Land Trust was also to be leased back to the Park, effectively increasing its size and linking up its eastern and western sections.

Speaking at the ceremony in May, the Northern Land Council’s Chairman Wali Wunungmurra said the handback would ensure tourists could still enjoy the park.

Today’s handover will ensure travellers from across Australia and around the world can continue to experience its many wonder.

The agreement with the Territory Government ushers in a new era of joint management for Jutpurra National Park, which will open up a range of opportunities for traditional owners.

Mr Wunungmurra said the handover would lead to new opportunities for traditional owners to gain employment with Parks and Wildlife, undertake contract work within the park and to develop tourism ventures.

Article source: Central Land Council, Land Right News Central Australia, September 2010

Lake Nash native title recognised

15 August 2012 - Lake Nash and Georgina Downs Native Title holders celebrating the native title consent determinations. Source: Central Land Council
15 August 2012 - Lake Nash and Georgina Downs Native Title holders celebrating the native title consent determinations. Source: Central Land Council

Native title was declared on two cattle stations near the Queensland border in August 2012.

The basketball court at Alpurrurulam community temporarily became the Federal Court, which recognised the rights and interests of native title holders of the Lake Nash and Georgina Downs pastoral leases.

The native title application was filed with the court for the Ilperrelhelam, Malarrarr, Nwerrarr, Meyt, Itnwerrengayt and Ampwertety landholding groups in 2001.

The Court recognised their traditional rights, including the rights to access and hunt, gather and fish on the land and waters, conduct cultural activities and ceremonies, and to camp on the land and erect shelters and other structures.

The decision also secures their right to negotiate over any future acts such as mining.

Lake Nash and Georgina Downs, approximately 650 kms north-east of Alice Springs, are run as pastoral stations.

The claimants’ native title rights will co-exist with the rights of the pastoral leaseholders to graze cattle.

After a long battle, Lake Nash (Alpurrurulam) became a Community Living Area in 1991, with a small area of land excised from the station to enable traditional owners to live there.

Many of the current claimants or their parents were born and lived on Lake Nash Station near the waterhole for most of their lives.

Article source: Central Land Council, Land Right News Central Australia, December 2012

Mt Denison and Narwietooma native title celebrations

Special sittings of the Federal Court at two remote Central Australian outstations have confirmed native title for traditional owners of two pastoral properties near Alice Springs. Justice Rangiah handed down two non-exclusive native title consent determinations at Cockatoo Creek and M’Bunghara outstations in June 2016.

During a sitting at Cockatoo Creek, east of Yuendumu, Justice Rangiah recognised native title over the whole of Mt Denison Station, more than 2,700 square kilometres.

L- R Justice Rangiah congratulates Ruth Napaljarri Oldfield at the native title consent determination over Mount Denison PPL at Cockatoo Creek outstation. Mt Denison native title holders. Source: Central Land Council
L- R Justice Rangiah congratulates Ruth Napaljarri Oldfield at the native title consent determination over Mount Denison PPL at Cockatoo Creek outstation. Mt Denison native title holders. Source: Central Land Council

The determination at M’Bunghara outstation, one day earlier, was in relation to an area covering the whole of Narwietooma Station, almost 2,700 square kilometres, and a portion of the Dashwood Creek where the claimants proved exclusive possession.

Central Land Council chair Francis Kelly said he hopes the Mt Denison determination will improve the relationship between the traditional owners and the pastoral lease holders.

“It will make it easier to share the country,” he said.

Mr Kelly said the Court’s determinations recognise the groups’ rights to hunt, gather and fish, as well as to conduct cultural activities and ceremonies on their land.

It also gives them the right to negotiate about exploration and mining.

These rights will co-exist with the Mt Denison and Narwietooma pastoral leases, which will continue to be run as cattle stations.

The Mt Denison native title holders belong to the Rrkwer/Mamp/Arrwek, Yinjirrpikurlangu, Janyinpartinya,Yanarilyi and Ngarliyikirlangu landholding groups.

Their native title rights and interests will be held by their Registered Native Title Body Corporate, the Mt Denison Aboriginal Corporation.

The Narwietooma native title holders are Western Arrernte and Anmatyerr speakers and belong to the Imperlknge, Urlatherrke, Parerrule, Yaperlpe, Urlampe, Lwekerreye and Ilewerr landholding groups and people who have rights and interests in the area of land known as Kwerlerrethe.

The Wala Aboriginal Corporation will become the Registered Native Title Body Corporate that holds their rights and interests.

Article source: Central Land Council, Land Right News Central Australia, August 2016

Stirling and Neutral Junction native title recognised at last

Traditional Owners of two adjoining pastoral stations north of Alice Springs have received recognition of their right to hunt, gather, fish and conduct ceremonies on their land.

The almost 15,000 square kilometre determination area covers the whole of Stirling Station and parts of Neutral Junction Station.

Justice Reeves made the native title consent determination at a special sitting of the Federal Court on the Hanson River on Stirling Station in April 2016. The determination also secures traditional owners’ right to negotiate over future exploration and mining.

Native Title holders celebrating the Neutral Junction native title consent determination. Source: Central Land Council
Native Title holders celebrating the Neutral Junction native title consent determination. Source: Central Land Council

Anmatyerr and Kaytetye speakers from 13 different landholding groups - Akalperre, Amakweng, Alapanp, Arlwekarr, Arlpawe, Arnerre, Arnmanapwenty, Errene/Warlekerlange, Errweltye, Kwerrkepentye, Rtwerrpe, Tyarre Tyarre and Wake – attended the court sitting.

Central Land Council director David Ross said:

The traditional owners were concerned about the protection of sites and wanted to have a say over exploration on their country.

The native title rights co-exist with the pastoral leases, which will continue to be run as cattle stations.

The Eynewantheyne Aboriginal Corporation will become the Registered Native Title Body Corporate that holds the rights and interests on behalf of its members.

Article source: Central Land Council, Land Right News Central Australia, August 2016

Ooratippra win exclusive native title

Justice Reeves presenting determination to native title holders. Source: Central Land Council
Justice Reeves presenting determination to native title holders. Source: Central Land Council

Ooratippra is a 4,292 square kilometre pastoral lease owned by the Ooratippra Aboriginal Corporation.

The claim was lodged over the whole of the station and also included the Irretety Community Living Area (CLA), an area of eight square kilometres held by Irretety Aboriginal Corporation and located within the station boundaries.

As Ooratippra PPL and Irretety CLA are owned by native title holders, they are able to claim exclusive possession (“to the exclusion of all others”) under the Native Title Act, rather than non-exclusive rights which co-exist with pastoral lessees.

That recognition secures their traditional rights, as well as the right to negotiate over any future acts like mining.

The Indigenous Land Corporation purchased Ooratippra PPL in May 1999 after years of lobbying by native title holders who wanted title to their own land and to be able to run their own cattle business.

Ooratippra can run up to 4000 head of cattle and will continue to be leased out to a neighbouring land owner who will, over time, assist in the re-establishment of a locally managed cattle herd.

The claim represents the Irrkwal, Irrmarn, Ntewerrek, Aharreng, Arrty/Amatyerr and Areyn estate groups of the Alyawarr language group.

Article source: Central Land Council, Land Rights News Central Australia, October 2011

Native title for Bushy Park and Kalkarindji 

Native title holders, Central Land Council Staff, Federal Court and NT Government officials gathered at Kalkarindji. Source: Central Land Council
Native title holders, Central Land Council Staff, Federal Court and NT Government officials gathered at Kalkarindji. Source: Central Land Council

The Federal Court sat in Kalkarindji, the birthplace of the modern land rights movement, on 7 May 2014.

A determination of native title by consent over the Kalkarindji township was handed down in favour of the local Gurindji people.

Central Land Council Director, David Ross, congratulated the traditional owners.

Standing with you here in your country, it is wonderful to see the long and proud tradition of Gurindji people is continuing, fighting for and achieving just recognition of your rights in traditional lands.

Senior traditional owner Roslyn Frith, a director of the Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation, celebrated the persistence of the Gurindji people:

We hold the land in our hands, and recognition here today is another milestone in the continuing campaign for Aboriginal land rights.

Two days later, the court reconvened in a different region, and this time Justice White sat before the native title holders for Bushy Park to consider their claim for recognition over the area covered by the Bushy Park Pastoral Lease.

The Bushy Park PPL Native Title determination application was filed with the Court in December 2012 and on 9 May 2014, the Court recognised the non-exclusive native title rights of the Ilkewarn, Atwel/Alkwepetye and Ayampe landholding groups.

Bushy Park native title holders and Justice White (second left) celebrate with a cake on 9 May 2014 at Edwards Creek Station. Source: Central Land Council
Bushy Park native title holders and Justice White (second left) celebrate with a cake on 9 May 2014 at Edwards Creek Station. Source: Central Land Council
After the Court ceremony senior native title holder Eric Penangk told the gathering:

Ceremony and culture has to pass to the young people. Aboriginal law and whitefella law can work together.

While the native title rights are now recognised they still sit with other laws such as the NT Pastoral Land Act, and Bushy Park will continue to run as a pastoral lease.

Article source: Central Land Council, Land Right News Central Australia, May 2014