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The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983

Aboriginal Land Councils constituted under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA) in NSW can claim land as compensation for historic dispossession of land and to support Aboriginal communities’ social and economic development.

The right to claim land was introduced in 1983 when the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 became law in NSW.

The ALRA recognises the traditional ownership and occupation of the land by Aboriginal peoples and the importance of their connection to land. This means the ALRA recognises the spiritual, social, cultural and economic importance of land to the state’s Aboriginal peoples.

The ALRA also acknowledges that past governments’ decisions have progressively reduced the lands set aside for Aboriginal people without compensation.

The purposes of the ALRA are set out in section 3:

  • To provide land rights for Aboriginal persons in New South Wales
  • To provide for representative Aboriginal Land Councils in New South Wales
  • To vest land in those Councils
  • 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
  • To provide for the provision of community benefit schemes by or on behalf of those Councils

The principle of self-determination underpins the ALRA.

Since the introduction of the ALRA many of the powers within its provisions, and the right to make decisions, have been gradually transferred to Aboriginal Land Councils.

The ALRA provides for a self-funded and self-regulated network of independent Aboriginal bodies corporate. It also sets out a regulatory framework for Aboriginal Land Councils, including their statutory reporting obligations.

Comparison to Native Title & the Northern Territory Land Rights Act 1976

Land rights legislation in NSW and Native Title legislation are different.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA) differs in many ways from the Native Title Act 1993, which was passed by the Australian Parliament and operates at a national level, rather than a state level.

The ALRA in NSW also differs from other state level land rights legislation, such as the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976.

Information about these differences is available here.

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