Muckaty disputes shows NLC talks with forked tongue

Northern Land Council
Annual Report for 2010-2011

Administer Land Trusts

Objective: Assist Land Trusts’ to act appropriately and in accordance with the Land Rights Act.

Land Trusts are statutory corporations that hold title to Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act for the benefit of people who are entitled by tradition to use or occupy the land, whether or not that entitlement is qualified by place, time, circumstance, purpose or permission.

The functions of a Land Trust are to hold title to land, exercise powers to acquire, hold and dispose of real and personal property for the benefit of the traditional owners and, where land is granted in a deed of grant held in escrow, to acquire the estates and interests of other persons with a view of gaining the delivery of the
title to the Land Trust. A Land Trust cannot exercise its functions in relation to land except in accordance with a direction given by the Land Council.

Land Trusts consist of a Chairman and not less than three members who hold office for periods not exceeding three years.

Land Trust members are usually traditional owners of the land held in trust.

The NLC assists the Land Trusts in a number of ways including the secure storage of Deeds of Grant and Common Seals, receiving and distributing monies such as rents and royalty payments, and the resolution and management of disputes.

Mediation and Dispute Resolution

Objective: Support traditional owners to manage and resolve disputes.

With its favourable environment and generally abundant water resources, the Northern region of the NT has always had a large traditional owner population. Its position has also tended to attract much of the Territory’s non-Aboriginal population and subsequent development. The Territory’s capital for example is sited here. Considered along with the coast (which has many unique issues) and such things as farming, the uranium resources and large towns, the Top End’s traditional owner population is confronted with numerous and often contentious issues. Not unnaturally there can be widely differing opinions held that result in tensions within and between groups with regard to some issue such as a proposed development. This can and has led to disputes.

In addition there are those disputes that arise with regard to traditional ownership.

These may be boundary disputes between groups, or they may be intergroup disputes regarding membership, or some combination.

The NLC’s functions include that under Section 25 of the Land Rights Act, which is defined as a duty to ‘attempt [the] conciliation of disputes’. “Where a Land Council is informed that there is, or there may arise, a dispute with respect to land in the area of the Council between persons to whom this section applies, the Land Council shall use its best endeavours by way of conciliation for the settlement or prevention, as the case may be, of that dispute.”

The land council is also the arbiter for the identification of the traditional owners of Land Rights Act. Consequently the need arises for investigations of disputes, for mediation and for formal findings by the land council in some cases. The NLC takes this work seriously and works through the issues appropriately and professionally.

(emphasis added – Songlines).

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