Native title: a new guide for LG

With assistance and support from the National Native Title Tribunal and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has prepared a detailed guide to working with native title for Councils.

To be launched in August, it provides a step by step action plan, a clear explanation of the background to the common law recognition of native title, and an explanation of native title terms and processes.

"One of the biggest misconceptions that exists among Councils is that native title only becomes a consideration when a native title application is made over an area," said President of ALGA, Cr John Campbell said. "Nothing could be further from the truth.

"As administrators, managers and developers of Crown land and other publicly owned land where native title may continue to exist, Councils are obligated by law to consider native title rights and interests in their planning and land management processes.

"Native title is an existing right that originates in indigenous law and custom. Therefore, as a prudent management strategy, native title must be included as a consideration in all dealings involving land where it cannot be established beyond doubt that native title has been extinguished.

"Failure to do so, may expose Council to claims for compensation or injunctions to cease doing an act that invalidly impairs or extinguishes native title rights and interests.

"Native title rights and interests constitute an important sub set of the total sum of rights and interests that local Councils must consider when carrying out their land management functions. This requirement sits alongside other clearances, such as environment and heritage protection."

The Guide to 'Working with Native Title' has been prepared, after extensive consultation, to assist Local Government to work more effectively with native title and to enable Councils to fulfil their obligations under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and complementary State/Territory legislation.

The Guide includes the following.

  • A detailed step by step Action Plan that Councils can implement to work with native title matters and to incorporate native title into Council's broader land management functions.
  • Information on the background to the legal recognition of native title.
  • A clear explanation of the terminology and processes contained in the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).
  • Information on the agencies and organisations that Councils will need to work with.

Native title now exists as a practical reality in Australia's legal law landscape. Dealing with native title matters is another part of Local Government's responsibilities as land managers and developers.

To assist Councils to take stock of this new reality, ALGA has taken the lead in developing a valuable resource that sets an example to other peak bodies and industry groups whose interests also intersect with native title rights and interests.

ALGA is developing appropriate training in the use of both 'Working with Native Title' and its earlier Guide, 'Working Out Agreements'. This will be coordinated and delivered through State/Territory Local Government Associations later in the year.

For further information contact Ed Wensing, Native Title Project Manager at ALGA, telephone (02) 6281 1211 extension 24 or Lucy Macmillan, Native Title Project Officer, on (02) 6281 1211 extension 13.