Administering the Act
The NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA) is administered by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, but allocates roles, responsibilities and powers between:
The Role of Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Aboriginal Affairs assists the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to administer the ALRA – at the direction and on behalf of the Minister.
The Minister's powers include:
- Working in partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the Office of the Registrar of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA), to ensure compliance with the Act
- Monitoring the operations of Local Aboriginal Land Councils
- Monitoring the operations of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC)
- Appointed and monitoring investigators and administrators appointed to Aboriginal Land Councils
- Conducting legislative reviews of the Act
Aboriginal Affairs is also responsible for providing advice to the Minister about his or her legislative responsibilities, including:
- Considering advice from NSWALC on matters relating to land rights and Aboriginal affairs more generally
- Receipt of the NSWALC Annual Report, which the Minister is to lay in both Houses of the Parliament
- Consulting with NSWALC to determine the date for the election of NSW Aboriginal Land Council Councillors
- Receipt and approval of the NSWALC budget
- Receipt of six-monthly reports from NSWALC regarding the funds allocated to Local Aboriginal Land Councils and their compliance with the Act
- Approval of NSWALC policies under section 113 of the Act
- Receipt of monthly reports of appointed investigators and administrators to Aboriginal Land Councils.
- Briefings on recommendations for the appointment of investigators and administrators to Aboriginal Land Councils, with the approval of NSWALC
- Receipt of monthly reports of appointed investigators and administrators to Aboriginal Land Councils
- The acquisition of land in exceptional circumstances for the purposes of the Act
- Determining that certain Aboriginal Land Council lands are exempt from the payment of rates
- Making an order that a Local Aboriginal Land Council is to be dissolved and/or amalgamated
- Determining travel and other allowances of councillors
The Minister has limited powers to intervene in the operations of Aboriginal Land Councils. Specifically, the Minister does not have a role or the power to intervene in:
- The determination of Aboriginal land claims, which is a power vested in the Minister/s administering the Crown Lands Act 1989
- Housing and other management matters of Local Aboriginal Land Councils which are regulated by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, and the Registrar
- The development or approval of Local Government Local Environmental Plans, including changes to zoning
The role of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983
- The Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (the Registrar) is an independent statutory office holder appointed by the Governor of NSW. The Registrar has functions and powers relating to oversight of Aboriginal Land Council governance, the investigation of complaints and resolution of disputes relating to Aboriginal Land Councils constituted under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA).
- The Registrar also maintains registers of land claims, Aboriginal Land Agreements (ALAs) and of those persons qualified as Aboriginal Owners under the ALRA. The Registrar registers land claims then lodges them with the Department of Primary Industries for action. The investigation and determination of land claims is the responsibility of the Minister/s administering the Crown Land Act 1989. Neither the Registrar nor the Minister has the power to determine land claims.
The role and functions of the Registrar set out in section 165 of the ALRA are:
- To register land claims made under the Act by the NSWALC or Local Aboriginal Land Councils
- To maintain the Register of Aboriginal Land Claims and the Register of Aboriginal Owners
- To keep and maintain a register in relation to Aboriginal Land Agreements under section 36AA
- To approve the rules of the NSWALC and Local Aboriginal Land Councils
- To make recommendations to the Minister and carry out such other prescribed functions in relation to the constitution of Local Aboriginal Land Council areas and the constitution of Local Aboriginal Land Councils, the alteration of area boundaries of Local Aboriginal Land Council areas and the changing of names of Local Aboriginal Land Councils
- To make recommendations to the Minister and carry out such other prescribed functions in relation to the alteration of area boundaries of Regions and the changing of names of Regions
- To issue compliance directions to Aboriginal Land Councils, officers of Aboriginal Land Councils and councillors, relating to the administration of the Act and the regulations and to refer failures to comply with such directions to the Land and Environment Court
- To mediate, conciliate or arbitrate disputes relating to the operation of the Act and the regulations or to refer such disputes to independent mediators, conciliators or arbitrators
- To investigate complaints regarding the non-disclosure of pecuniary interests, misconduct by councillors, Board members and members of staff of, and consultants to, Aboriginal Land Councils, and breaches of the Act and the regulations
- At the request of the Minister, to provide to the Minister information as to the operations of an Aboriginal Land Council
- Such other functions conferred or imposed on the Registrar by or under this or any other Act.
Want to know more?
The Office of the Registrar is located in Glebe, Sydney, and can be contacted on (02) 9562 6327.