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Aboriginal Land Councils

NSW Aboriginal Land Council

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council is an independent statutory corporation constituted under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. The Council is elected every four years and comprises of nine councillors representing nine regional areas.

The next NSW Aboriginal Land Council election is due to take place in 2015.

The Council also has an administrative arm, overseen by a Chief Executive Officer, with a head office located in Parramatta and five regional zone offices located around NSW.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council is the chief regulator of the land council network that includes the approval of Local Aboriginal Land Council land dealings, Community, Land and Business Plans and housing management arrangements. The Council also manages a Statutory Investment fund. The Council invests and disburses funds to maintain the network of land councils, and when possible invests in other initiatives for the betterment of the Aboriginal people of NSW.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council also determines and advocates policies for the benefit of the Aboriginal people of NSW including representation at the United Nations.

Local Aboriginal Land Councils

There are 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils located across NSW. Local Aboriginal Land Councils form the core of the organisational structure of the land rights network. Local Aboriginal Land Council boundaries do not necessarily affiliate with cultural or traditional association with country.

Membership

All Aboriginal people 18 years or over who are resident within the area of a Local Aboriginal Land Council are entitled to apply for membership. In certain circumstances, non-residents can become members by cultural association that includes familial, historical or cultural association with the area.

Applications for new memberships are considered at duly constituted Aboriginal Land Council meetings by current voting members, present at the meeting. The process can require that the applicant attend the meeting. When considering new memberships the onus is on the Local Aboriginal Land Councils to be satisfied that the applicant satisfies the membership qualifications set out in section 54(2A) the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.

The Registrar has powers to advise and mediate disputes between Land Councils, and between Land Councils and other parties, and has the power to issue compliance directions to Aboriginal Land Councils to address non-compliance with the ALRA..

Local Aboriginal Land Councils do not, nor are required, to provide certification of Aboriginality. However, if they so choose they can confirm the membership of people accepted as adult Aboriginal people on their membership roll.

Operation

Local Aboriginal Land Councils currently receive an annual funding grant of $130 000 from the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. Land Councils may also attain funding by other means such as government grants, donations and bequeathed estates. Additionally, Councils are free to deal commercially with their land which can include development with private partners, sale, and the investment of any proceeds.

Since 2007, Local Aboriginal Land Councils have been required to have their members, and the elected NSW Aboriginal Land Council, approve Community Land and Business Plans which must be adopted and implemented. The plans provide for clear and transparent oversight of assets, policies and community benefit schemes by the members and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

Most Local Aboriginal Land Councils operate an office and employ full-time staff, including a Chief Executive Officer and in some cases other administrative positions. Local Aboriginal Land Councils are independent of the NSW State Government. However, they are deemed to be public authorities for the purposes of legislation relating to accountability. Certain public authorities, including the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Ombudsman and the Auditor General, have powers to investigate or require information from Land Councils.

Local Aboriginal Land Councils can acquire land by claiming Crown land subject to certain criteria, or by purchasing land that is available commercially. For more information see the Land Claims page on this website.

Governance

Local Aboriginal Land Councils comprise of an elected board, an appointed Chief Executive Officer and members. Each has certain roles and responsibilities which are set out in the Act and Regulations. Local Aboriginal Land Council boards are elected every two years and range in size from seven to ten members, dependent on the number of voting members in each council.

More than 100 voting members

For councils with more than 100 voting members, the Local Aboriginal Land Council is required elect a board not fewer than seven and not more than ten board members.

100 or less voting members

For councils with 100 voting members, the Local Aboriginal Land Council is required elect a board not fewer than five and not more than seven board members.

The Local Aboriginal Land Council Board implements the council’s Community, Land and Business Plan. The roles and functions of the elected Boards are set out in section 62 of the Act as follows:

  1. A Board of a Local Aboriginal Land Council has the following functions:
    1. to direct and control the affairs of the Council
    2. to facilitate communication between the Council’s members and the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council;
    3. to review the performance of the Council in the exercise of its functions and the achievement of its objectives;
    4. without limiting paragraph (a), to enter into short-term residential tenancy agreements in relation to land vested in the Council and to manage or terminate such agreements;
    5. (d) any other functions conferred on the Board by or under the Act
  2. The functions of the Board of a Local Aboriginal Land Council are to be exercised in accordance with the Act and the regulations and consistently with the community, land and business plan of the Council.

The Chief Executive Officer manages the day-to-day management of the operations of the Council. The role and function of the chief executive officer of Local Aboriginal Land Councils is set out in the section 78A(2) of the Act as follows:

The chief executive officer has the following particular functions:

  1. the day-to-day management of the Council’s affairs,
  2. the exercise of such functions of the Board as are delegated by the Board to the chief executive officer,
  3. the appointment of staff in accordance with the approval of the Board,
  4. the direction and dismissal of members of staff,
  5. such other functions as may be conferred or imposed on the chief executive officer by or under the or any other Act.

Members are conferred with the following functions exercised by resolution:

  1. acceptance of persons as qualified for membership,
  2. delegation of functions of the Council,
  3. approval of the rules and code of conduct of the Council and any amendment to or repeal or the replacement of those rules or that code,
  4. approval of the community, land and business plan of the Council and any changes to the plan,
  5. approval of dealings with land and land dealing approval agreements other than any such dealings or agreements that relate to short-term residential tenancy agreements,
  6. receipt of the annual budget and the financial statements of the Council,
  7. election of Board members,
  8. suspension of members from attending or voting at meetings of the Council,
  9. approval of requests to change the name of the Council’s area or for the amalgamation or dissolution of the Council, or its re-allocation to another Region.

All members, including the Board and any other staff are required to abide by the Council’s Code of Conduct and Model Rules,set out in the Aboriginal Land Rights Regulation 2002. Council may develop their own Model Rules and seek to have them approved by the Registrar.

For further information visit www.alc.org.au or call:

Head Office, Parramatta: 02-9689 4444
Northern Zone Office, Coffs Harbour: 02-6659 1200
Western Zone Office, Dubbo: 02-9885 7000
Eastern Zone Office, Gosford: 02-4377 4701
Southern Zone Office, Queanbeyan: 02-6124 3555
Far Western Zone Office, Broken Hill: 08-8087 3851