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Aboriginal Land Rights Act

In 1983, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 became law in NSW, representing a major step by the NSW Parliament to provide land rights to the Aboriginal people of NSW for the loss and dispossession of their land. The Act is a compensatory regime which recognises that land is of spiritual, social, cultural and economic importance to Aboriginal people. This is set out in the preamble of the Act and underpins how the legislation functions and is administered. Specifically, the preamble states that land was traditionally owned and occupied by Aboriginal people and accepts that as a result of past government decisions, the amount of land set aside for Aboriginal people has been progressively reduced without compensation.

The purpose of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 is set out in the section 3 of the Act as follows:

  1. to provide land rights for Aboriginal persons in New South Wales,
  2. to provide for representative Aboriginal Land Councils in New South Wales,
  3. to vest land in those Councils,
  4. to provide for the acquisition of land, and the management of land and other assets and investments, by or for those Councils and the allocation of funds to and by those Councils,
  5. to provide for the provision of community benefit schemes by or on behalf of those Councils

The principle of self determination underpins the Act. Over the course of its history and development the legislation has progressively increased the power and decision making of its intents and purposes to Aboriginal people. Apart from a regulatory regime of statutory reporting requirements the legislation provides for a self funded and self regulated network of independent Aboriginal corporations.

Differences with Native Title & the Northern Territory Land Rights Act 1976

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 differs,in fundamental respects from Commonwealth Native Title legislation and from other State level land rights legislation, such as the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976.

Useful Links

The current Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 is available at legislation.nsw.gov.au


Native Title

Native Title Tribunal nntt.gov.au

NSW Native Title Services atns.net.au


Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976

Anindilyakwa Land Council www.anindilyakwa.com.au

Central Land Council www.clc.org.au

Northern Land Council www.nlc.org.au

Tiwi Land Council www.tiwilandcouncil.com