The appointment of administrators and investigators to Local Aboriginal Land Councils is one of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs’ powers under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. However, the Minister cannot make appointments without the approval of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. Appointments may also be extended, for various reasons, by the Minister only with the consent of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
Appointees are selected from a list of persons jointly prepared by the General Manager of Aboriginal Affairs and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. The list is regularly reviewed and updated and includes a transparent procurement process. The list was last updated in May 2012 and is not likely to be reviewed again until May 2015.
Administrators and investigators are independent from the Minister, Aboriginal Affairs and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council only in that they perform roles and functions in accordance with the terms of their Instruments of Appointment. The Instrument of Appointment specifies the term of the appointment, functions and duties, reporting requirements, and specific matters.that require addressing to re-establish compliance with the Land Rights Act.
The remuneration and cost of the appointments are exclusively paid by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council which may recover the funds from the Land Council where the appointment was made. The Government does not pay for appointments.
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 indemnifies appointees from personal liability where they act in good faith for the purpose of executing the Act or any other legislation.
Investigators and administrators may be removed by the Minister with the approval of NSWALC.
Investigators examine the problems within a land council and to advise the Minister and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council on action that will help councils to operate in the best interest of members, including for the efficient management of their funds and property. The investigator must also report any maladministration or misappropriation to the appropriate authorities. The Chairperson of the Land Council, and others with possession or control of the Land Council records, must provide the investigator with access to the records, as well as information and authorities to the records. A person must not hinder, obstruct or delay the investigation.
An administrator is appointed to remedy administrative and financial problems of a Aboriginal Land Council and to help it function effectively again. Administrators are usually appointed with all the functions of the Land Council and operate with the powers of the Board and the Council, except certain resolutions reserved for members such as the disposal (sale) of land. When an administrator is appointed with full functions, the current board is removed. However, in some circumstances, administrators can also be appointed with part functions while the Board remains in office to exercise any functions conferred on it.
All persons with possession or control of the Land Council records must provide the administrator with access to the records, as well as information and authorities to the records. A person must not hinder, obstruct or delay the administration.
Prior to any decision to appoint an administrator the ALRA requires the Minister to provide notice to the relevant Land Council and seek submissions as to why an administrator should or should not be appointed.
The grounds upon which the Minister may appoint an administrator to Local Aboriginal Land Councils are set out in section 222(1) of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.
If an administrator is appointed to perform all of the functions of a Local Aboriginal Land Council the Board members are removed from office and a new Board is appointed prior to expiration of the administrator’s term. Members approval by resolution is still required for any dealings with land undertaken during the term of the administration.