House debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019


Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Land Scheduling) Bill 2018; Second Reading

10:55 am

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill, and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

It is my pleasure to introduce the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Land Scheduling) Bill 2018 (Bill) to the chamber.

The bill demonstrates the government's commitment to recognising traditional Aboriginal ownership of land and to finalising land claims in the Northern Territory which have remained unresolved for decades.

It delivers on the government's election commitment to resolve outstanding Aboriginal land claims in the Northern Territory and to work with Indigenous landowners to ensure their land rights deliver the economic opportunities that should come from owning your own land.

This bill also gives practical effect to our commitment to working in partnership with Indigenous Australians.

The government is committed to the recognition of Indigenous land through statutory land rights and native title, and we are working with traditional owners and land councillors to make this happen.

The government has provided the necessary resources to all stakeholders, including an additional $1 million to the Aboriginal Land Commissioner to ensure that the delays experienced under previous governments no longer hold back this important process.

We believe that these land claims have been unresolved for too long.

That Aboriginal people and communities have waited too long for the recognition of their ownership of land.

And that the Northern Territory people, industries and stakeholders have waited too long for certainty about the management of land across the Territory.

The bill adds land that was subject to a successful native title application in Central Australia to schedule 1 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Land Rights Act) so that land can be granted as Aboriginal land.

Scheduling of the land is consistent with the terms of the Ammaroo Indigenous land use agreement executed by the relevant parties, including the affected pastoralists, and registered with the National Native Title Tribunal.

This is a good example of what can be achieved when parties take a pragmatic and cooperative approach to resolving native title issues.

A native title determination over former stock routes and stock reserve on Ammaroo Station in Central Australia had the potential to create management challenges for the holder of the pastoral lease.

The bill delivers on an agreement between all parties that allows for the continued operation of Ammaroo Station, supporting the important pastoral industry in the Northern Territory, and at the same time provides for the recognition of Aboriginal ownership of land for traditional owners. The native title holders have agreed to surrender any exclusive native title rights in the former stock routes and stock reserve in return for acquiring title under the land rights act to an area of land currently forming part of the pastoral lease.

The pastoralist has agreed that an area of land comprising part of the existing pastoral lease could be granted as Aboriginal land in return for the opportunity to incorporate former stock routes and stock reserve as part of the pastoral lease, with the assistance of the Northern Territory.

The land to be scheduled and granted as Aboriginal land is approximately 3,105 hectares in area and would be incorporated into an adjacent area of land already held by the Aherrenge Aboriginal Land Trust, on which the community of Ampilatwatja is located.

The government looks forward to seeing the future decisions that traditional owners make about the use of their land when their recognition of ownership of the land is finalised. The proposed grant of land is supported by all stakeholders, including the native title parties, the Northern Territory government, the Central Land Council and other local stakeholders.

The government acknowledges the work of all stakeholders, especially the Central Land Council, in delivering this important outcome for the people in the Northern Territory.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

10:59 am

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor support the bill. I rise to speak to these amendments. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Land Scheduling) Bill 2018 adds an area of land that is detailed in the Ammaroo Indigenous land use agreement—the Ammaroo ILUA, schedule 1 of the land rights act—so that the Ammaroo land can be granted as Aboriginal land. The agreement area covers about 193 square kilometres in the vicinity of Ammaroo Station, about 250 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs. So this bill allows that land in question to be granted to the relevant Aboriginal land trust under sections 10 and 12 of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

This bill is associated with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2017 which the House passed on Tuesday this week—19 February. The honourable member opposite will remember what the member for Lingiari said during his contribution when that bill passed. As he is not here, I just want to acknowledge his advocacy around pushing for this second bill with amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. As he said, it is a shame it's taken a year, but at least we are here. I thank the government and I acknowledge the member for Lingiari's advocacy. It's great the bill can be brought to a vote in this setting. There's no dispute about it. We agree on it. It is a shame that it hasn't come forward before today, but here we are.

I wanted to give those listening some sense of this land around Ammaroo. If you head north out of Alice Springs and then head out on the Sandover Highway, 200-odd kilometres north-east of Alice Springs you come to this area. It is absolutely incredible. It always has been Aboriginal land and now it is in legislation. It is a fantastic thing for people who live in that area to have that confirmed in law. I won't go into the history of the land rights act except to say it's an incredibly important and essential piece of legislation that should be protected.

I want to acknowledge, as the member for Hasluck did, all those stakeholders who have supported this movement. In my life prior to politics, I was taking health professionals out to communities in that region such as Utopia, or Urapuntja, and Ampilatwatja. It was a real privilege to be out on that country and be shown around and to be making a contribution to health services for the people of that region. This is the land we are talking about and the people who have a connection to that land.

I just wanted to bring alive this amendment somehow for those who are wondering whether it's important. Recently in Darwin I went to one of the Salon Indigenous art galleries in Darwin. They have some incredible artwork at the moment from this region that we are talking about. You can see some of it if you want to go to my Instagram. I put up one piece by Julieanne Morton. I actually remember meeting some of her family, the Morton family from Ampilatwatja, when I was there 10 or so years ago. It is an incredible piece. It gives you a sense of that land that this legislation is granting as Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act for these people. This is from an elder and artist in that community. She says of that amazing piece of art, which talks about the bush medicine of this area:

The landscape changes during the different seasons in the year. I paint the dried flowers and bushes from last season as well as the new plants that come after the rain. These plants have special meanings and uses for us. I have been taught how to read the country, and now I teach my children these skills.

That's the artist, Julieanne Morton.

This region of Australia is special. Earlier in the week, we talked about lands in the Kakadu area being part of the lands—around 50 per cent of the lands of the Northern Territory—that are now Aboriginal land in law.

I'm very proud of our ongoing commitment to the people of this country and to the lands that the previous legislation this week incorporated under the act. I'm proud of our commitment to the Kakadu region and to showing regions like Ammaroo Station to the world. I thank all of those stakeholders who have supported this coming to the House. I also support all of those working with First Nations people on their country—organisations like Salon Indigenous Art Projects. They show that not only is economic development possible in these communities but it's possible in a way that celebrates the connection of First Nations people with their land, which is now enshrined for Ammaroo Station with this bill. I support the bill and thank the chamber for listening.

11:06 am

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I just thank the member for Solomon for painting the picture of this particular piece of land like a local member who has that knowledge. I myself, being a farmer, have—though not to the historic extent of our Indigenous brothers—that understanding of what land can mean and that sense of place.

I just wanted to speak briefly on this bill and reflect a little bit from my family's experience. In the early 1970s, my parents were involved in Indigenous missionary work, actually, in Western Australia. It was on the reserves, when people were dying and when the standards of living were horrendously worse than now. My father took the secretariat notes for the federal minister for Indigenous affairs, who came to Carnarvon and Onslow. As they took the notes, they were trying to work out whether the federal government at the time would buy a fishing boat for the Yamatji people of the Gascoyne and Murchison region so that they could have purposeful employment. The government—thinking it knew what was best, coming from Canberra—went there, and the Aboriginal elders sort of listened and nodded. And, when they'd finished, dad—who was just a bit of a quietly-spoken farmer before he got involved in this work—turned to the elders and said, 'Who's going to hop on the boat?' because the Yamatji people are land people, and they said, 'Well, we think the water is salty.' So it was a classic example of a government thinking that it knew what was best and coming in with an idea that actually never was a success because they couldn't get the people to hop on the boat—they were not sea people.

So what we have discovered is: when you work with communities you actually get the best outcomes, and when you can actually give a sense of ownership you get the best outcomes. So, as we have progressively moved across to granting rights and allowing people to use that land in a productive way, to gain meaningful, purposeful activity, you actually get a lot more positive outcomes. This is something that I think we have learnt, from where we were many, many years ago.

In my region, which has a strong Indigenous community around Mildura, we have a group called Sunraysia Regional Consulting. They have said, 'We have a choice for our town: we can actually include our Aboriginal people in our economy in purposeful activity, or we can exclude them.' Instead, they've gone very much for purposeful inclusion.

I talked to a guy called Alan Fisher, who owned a chain of IGA supermarkets in our region. He would take young Aboriginal kids and give them meaningful employment. What he found was that, when they had the pressure of a death in their family and sorry business, there would be pressure in their home life and from their family to have to attend, and then they would feel too ashamed to come back and work for him because they'd feel that they'd let him down. Once he understood the cultural sensitivities, he was able to address that, so that he could get these people back and get them working. So sometimes misunderstandings can be overcome by businesses that want to play a very active role, and that has been wonderful in our community.

Sunraysia Regional Consulting is a group that works very closely with partnering Aboriginal people—in particular, young people—in the Mildura region to get jobs. The federal government gave them $1.7 million to support them in this program. We now have 180 jobs as a direct result of that money and those people have continued to have gainful employment. We are going to announce another $1 million to do another 100 jobs. It actually works. When you can create an understanding of one another, when you can create employment settings and when you can incentivise people to gain meaningful employment, you actually lift the standard of living.

My parents are coming up to their 50th wedding anniversary. The first thing they did as a married couple was head off and do Aboriginal mission work in the early seventies in Western Australia—Norseman, Onslow, Carnarvon, Wittenoom and all over the place. When they travel back to those communities now, they take some comfort in the fact that things have improved. There is still a lot to do, but things have improved—because we have started to listen and work constructively to help people get involved in the economic activity of this country and we have an understanding of what land rights are and what that means to them.

This is a small piece of legislation but it is supported by both sides of the chamber. It shows the maturity of the government in dealing with the challenges. The challenges are still there, but we are making process and I think that is a good thing.

11:11 am

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Solomon and the member for Mallee for their contributions to the debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Land Scheduling) Bill 2018. The bill adds an area of land that was subject to a successful native title application in Central Australia to schedule 1 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act so that the land can be granted as Aboriginal land. Scheduling the land is consistent with the terms of the Amaroo Indigenous land use agreement executed by the relevant parties including the affected pastoralists and registered with the National Native Title Tribunal. The amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 will enable the implementation of a native title settlement in the Northern Territory that has been agreed between the Aboriginal traditional owners and local stakeholders. It is a positive example of people working together to support the recognition of Aboriginal land and the advancement of economic opportunities for the region.

The coalition government is committed to resolving outstanding land claims and is investing to achieve this. We've invested in the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, land councils and Territory stakeholders to deliver on this. We are delivering on the coalition government's commitment to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to ensure traditional owners can make decisions and unlock the potential that comes with owning your own land.

The coalition government is working with traditional owners on township leases held by communities in the Northern Territory, including North East Arnhem Land, and we are investing record amounts in support for land tenure reforms, including as part of our commitment to develop northern Australia, because we recognise the opportunity and potential that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have to be part of the next stage of this exciting agenda. We have given the processing of land claims the priority it deserves and we will continue to fight for the rights of Indigenous Australians. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.