The Northern Land Council is an independent statutory authority of the Commonwealth. It is responsible for assisting Aboriginal peoples in the Top End of the Northern Territory to acquire and manage their traditional lands and seas.
Aboriginal land councils were set up in the early 1970s during the federal Government’s Aboriginal land Rights Commission (the Woodward Inquiry).
Land Councils are important bodies as they give Aboriginal peoples a voice on issues affecting their lands, seas and communities.
Key constituents of the NLC are traditional owners and the residents on Aboriginal lands. Approximately 30,000 Aboriginal people live within the NLC region. While many live in major towns there are almost 200 communities ranging in size from small family outstations to settlements of up to 3,000 people.
Most of the communities are in remote locations. The majority of Aboriginal people living within our region speak an Aboriginal language as their first language. Traditional Aboriginal law is practiced in many communities within our region.
Many major resource developments are taking place on Aboriginal land, land subject to Native Title rights and interests, or land and waters over which Aboriginal peoples assert interests. These developments include mining and exploration projects, the construction of railways, gas pipelines, army training areas, national parks, and pastoral activities. The challenge for the NLC is to ensure that social, economic and cultural benefits flow to Aboriginal peoples from these developments.
Aboriginal peoples are increasingly looking to participate in planning and development activities while at the same time seeking to protect their culture and integrity.
The most important responsibility of the NLC is to consult with traditional landowners and other Aboriginal peoples with an interest in affected land. Landowners must give informed consent before any action is taken to affect their lands and seas. Achieving informed consent also ensures affected Aboriginal communities and groups have the chance to express their views.