COAG – Terms of Reference – Senior Officers Working Group Indigenous land investigation

From DPMC website:

COAG Investigation into Indigenous land administration and use

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) announced on 10 October 2014 that it would conduct an urgent investigation into Indigenous land administration and use, to enable traditional owners to readily attract private sector investment and finance to develop their own land with new industries and businesses to provide jobs and economic advancement for Indigenous people.

The Investigation is an opportunity to focus all governments’ attention on how Indigenous land administration systems and processes can effectively support Indigenous land owners to leverage their land assets for economic development.

Terms of Reference – Senior Officers Working Group

The Senior Officers Working Group will focus its investigation and advice on improving the Indigenous land legislative, regulatory, administrative and operational systems and processes to:
1. enable Indigenous land owners to derive economic benefits from their land
2. enable jobs and economic advancement for Indigenous peoples
3. enable Indigenous home ownership and commercial enterprise
4. attract private sector investment and finance
5. develop industries and businesses support service delivery and infrastructure investment.

The Senior Officers Working Group will:

1. work with the Expert Indigenous Working Group to identify issues and develop options for COAG’s consideration
2. consult with key stakeholder groups including land councils, native title organisations, traditional owners, native title ministers, industry associations and financial institutions
3. consider, including with the Expert Indigenous Working Group, and report on proposals raised by native title ministers
4. provide a report to the first COAG meeting of 2015.

Expert Indigenous Working Group

Mr Wayne Bergmann (Chair)

Mr Brian Wyatt (Deputy Chair)

Mr Djawa Yunupingu

Ms Shirley McPherson

Ms Valerie Cooms

Mr Craig Cromelin

Mr Murrandoo Yanner


Ideological Battleground 2015 – Indigenous ‘land use’ vis-a-vis ‘development’ and private property.

The long ethnocidal war against this country’s First Peoples is shaping up for another chapter.

A key field of this war will take place in what we are encouraged to regard as the self-governing Northern Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia (First Peoples living countries) and extended into other parts of the country.

This ‘chapter’ is being carried out by powerful others, quick to proclaim (English only) they are working in the interests of First Peoples.

The powerful ‘others’ involved in this consists of some key players and a cast of many extras. So far, some of the key players amongst the ‘others’ include:

* the Council of Australian Governments;
* the County-Liberal Party Chief Minister of the Northern Territory;
* the Country Liberal Party Senator for the Northern Territory;
* the CEO the Northern Land Council;
* a Human Rights Commissioner

* And, just announced, a panel of indigenous land use ‘experts’ for the CoAG investigation. How and by whom they are selected is not clear.

Excluded from this high level discourse are the community voices of First Peoples at a local and regional level. As a result of past and present Australian government deliberate policies there is no properly resourced Australia wide representative body.

As things presently stand, we are unlikely to directly hear the voices of the senior lawpeople of those First Peoples.

Nor will we be hearing about how mainstream Western notions of development and exclusive ownership need to be reformed in light of First Peoples core values. We will hear much about how First Peoples Way have to be ‘reformed’ (yet again) to better comply with mainstream Western notions. The lives of First Peoples have been regarded as the playthings of Anglo-Australian governments for so long it is regarded as ‘normal’.

Nor is it likely that First Peoples voices will be accurately represented in either the mainstream or much of the alternative media. This is the chorus from the cast of many extras, singing very different songs to those of First Peoples, but in tune with their Western cultural master narratives.

Songlines will endeavour, during this year, to provide some informed commentary on this ‘reform’ process from a perspective which does not align solely with culturally one-sided mainstream Western norms and normas, but does not purport to represent the views of First Peoples.

If, better still, we can provide a conduit for their voices, we will.

Bruce (Japaljari) Reyburn
22 Feb 2012

“Expert Group Appointed to Indigenous Land Inquiry” Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Media Release
Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory

Friday 20 February 2015

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, who is leading a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) investigation into Indigenous land administration and use, has invited an Expert Indigenous Working Group to guide the work of the inquiry.

Minister Scullion said the group will work with the Commonwealth, state and territory governments on the Investigation and ensure that policy directions and proposals are developed with the involvement of Indigenous stakeholders.

“The Expert Indigenous Working Group will be chaired by Mr Wayne Bergmann who brings with him a wealth of experience in native title and economic development,” Minister Scullion said.

“The Group will also include Mr Brian Wyatt, Ms Valerie Cooms, Mr Murrandoo Yanner, Ms Shirley McPherson, Mr Djawa Yunupingu and Mr Craig Cromelin.

“Together they will be drawing on their expertise and knowledge throughout this investigation of Indigenous land administration and use.
“I also welcome ideas from all Indigenous stakeholders to support this work and the Group will also meet with Indigenous stakeholders as part of their consultations.”

Minister Scullion said the investigation will focus all governments’ attention on getting the settings right to support Indigenous land owners and native title holders to leverage their land assets for economic development as part of the mainstream economy.

“Indigenous land and native title is a foundation for Indigenous economic development,” he said.

“This investigation will consider what action is needed to ensure the land administration system assists Indigenous land owners and native title holders to use land to pursue their social, cultural and economic aspirations.”

“I have asked the Working Group to focus on opportunities to improve land administration under existing legislative arrangements and I maintain my commitment to not change the Northern Territory Land Rights Act unless supported by the Land Councils.”

The investigation terms of reference for the Investigation, and information about the Expert Indigenous Working Group, can be found at affairs/about/jobs-land-and-economy-programme/coag-land-investigation.


(link to terms of reference did not work for me. Have reported problem. Songlines)

NLC and CLC media statement – Abbott govt indigenous land use investigation

“Keep Indigenous land investigation ideology-free
Posted: Fri, February 20, 2015

THE Northern Territory’s two big land councils have called on the Abbott government to base its investigation into indigenous land use on facts rather than ideology.

“For the sake of the most disadvantaged indigenous Australians we call on the Abbott government to rise above its demonstrated dislike of evidence based policy development,” CLC Director, David Ross, and NLC CEO, Joe Morrison, said in a joint statement.

“We hope the indigenous working group announced today will challenge the myths being peddled by NT Country Liberal Party ideologues about hard-won Aboriginal land rights supposedly holding up development in remote communities. We are certainly keen to work constructively to develop solutions to real barriers to economic development.”

Mr Ross and Mr Morrison called for experts on the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to be added to the expert Indigenous working group.

“Much of this inquiry is about the land councils’ area of expertise: the Aboriginal Land Rights Act that applies only here in the Northern Territory. We are very disappointed that the government has not included anyone with technical knowledge of the legislation.”

Mr Ross and Mr Morrison said it was not encouraging that the terms of reference for the investigation were developed without Indigenous input
“While we’re hearing a lot about the new, more consultative Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs the reality on the ground is more of the same old top-down approach.”

Both land councils took little comfort from Minister Scullion’s assurance today that he would not change the Land Rights Act without the consent of the land councils.

“What the Minister has been trying but failing to do is to hollow out our land rights with the help of Howard-era provisions in the Land Rights Act that are ideologically driven, unworkable and would greatly increase uncertainty for Traditional Owners, third parties and businesses.”


COAG report on indigenous land ‘development’ due 1st COAG meeting in 2015

The Council of Australian Governments held its 38th meeting …
10 October 2014


“COAG noted that the Commonwealth, the Northern Territory and Queensland will urgently investigate Indigenous land administration and land use to enable traditional owners to readily attract private sector investment and finance to develop their own land with new industries and businesses to provide jobs and economic advancement for Indigenous people. The Commonwealth, Northern Territory and Queensland will report on this issue to the first COAG meeting in 2015.”

Full text

Human Rights, Tim Wilson, First Peoples, Native title reform – and the sacred right of private property?

Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner
National Press Club
Wednesday, 18th February 2015

Check against delivery.

Extract only.


Property rights are human rights

Magna Carta’s anniversary also provides the opportunity to reconnect Australia’s human rights discourse back to their origins, particularly the importance of property rights.

The very foundation of human rights is that people own their own bodies and should be free to pursue their lives, their opportunity and their enterprise.

Preservation of property rights is central to the human rights cause.

They underpin autonomy, security, and the foundations of a market economy through physical and intellectual property to deliver the growth to deliver higher standards of living, art and culture, innovation and education and health outcomes.

Property is the foundation of industries past, and the entrepreneurialism and creativity of tomorrow.

Denying them has the reverse effect. In Perth I met with property groups who articulated the human cost of excessive environmental laws that destroy the security and opportunity for farmers to invest in their own future.

In Alice Springs we went to art galleries that ensured remote Aboriginal communities earned an income through the sale of artwork that is built on a respect for their intellectual property.

In his compelling book, The Mystery of Capital, Hernando de Soto, identified “Without formal property, no matter how many assets the excluded accumulate or how hard they work, most people will not be able to prosper”.[3]

The freedom to exercise property

If you need evidence to demonstrate the human consequences of denying property, you just need to look at Aboriginal Australia.

Mabo established recognition of the common law right of native title and the road for Aboriginal Australians to reclaim their available lands. But it was only the beginning of the story.

It’s not enough for Aboriginal Australians to simply have property rights; they must also have the freedom to exercise them.

Unleashing the freedom to exercise native title must be part of the next chapter in ensuring our Aboriginal Australians, as Noel Pearson wrote in a recent essay, achieve their “equal liberty … [and] the freedom to take responsibility”.[4]

Aboriginal leaders from Broome to Cairns have detailed to me the complex bureaucracy after native title is secured, including:

Excessive regulations that undermine self-determination and entrench poverty.
Land tax bills for property that they’ve never had the opportunity to develop.
And legal restrictions that stop land being used as equity to raise the capital to be entrepreneurial.

This is neither fair, nor just.

We can’t complain about the cost of welfare programs for Australia’s first citizens, when we concurrently deny them the freedom to use the primary asset they own to escape dependency.

It is not our place to tell Aboriginal Australia how to use their land. But it is our duty to ensure they can by removing red tape. Reform requires:

Flexible legal instruments enabling communities to use their title as they see fit, including with different ownership structures that meet their needs.
Complimentary new business models that ensure finance can be raised, and risk can be priced, so communities can build economic opportunities.
Mechanisms to raise finance for the development of housing and ownership.

Having met with leaders, there is an appetite for constructive reform to set native title free.

Reform must respect native title’s unique role as a sacred bond between Aboriginal Australians and their homelands.

Therefore, I’m proud to announce that my colleague, Mick Gooda, and I will be hosting a high-level forum on this subject later this year.

Any proposals from this forum will require the consent of native title holders if implemented and will not compromise the protection of the inherent legal rights of Aboriginal Australia.

We will be bringing together parties interested in reviewing and reforming native title to remove legal and regulatory barriers that hold Aboriginal communities back from reaching their full potential.


(emphasis added – Songlines)

Full text at

Further Reading: Human Rights as a Western Construct with limited applicability.