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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Land and Housing


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights and interests in land are formally recognised over around 50 per cent of Australia’s land mass.

Connection to land is of central importance to First Nations Australians. The recognition of Indigenous rights in land and waters has been fundamental to the process of reconciliation.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency is working with First Nations Australians so that Indigenous land can become an economic asset, as well as a cultural and spiritual asset.

We assist First Nations people generate economic and social benefits from their land assets. This includes supporting traditional owners to make informed decisions about use of their land, and supporting long-term tradable tenure and land administration. We also support First Nations Australians to pursue land and sea claims under Commonwealth native title and land rights legislation.

Land rights

The Commonwealth has responsibility for Land Rights in the Northern Territory through the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth).

Under this Act, traditional owners hold decision-making powers over the use of Aboriginal land. Land Councils assist traditional owners to acquire and manage their land. Royalty equivalents for mining activity on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory are paid to the Aboriginals Benefit Account. We administer this Account.

We also have a role in negotiating township leases, which are a type of long-term lease (up to 99 years) over communities on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Township leases can support economic development outcomes by providing long-term tradable tenure.

Reforms to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory)

A new Aboriginal-controlled body called the Northern Territory Aboriginal Investment Corporation (NTAIC) has been established to make payments and invest money from the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) to support self-determination for Traditional Owners and Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory for generations to come. 

This follows reforms to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Economic Empowerment) Act 2021, which NT traditional owners asked for, through their Land Councils, to better support their economic, cultural and social aspirations. Other reforms also modernise and streamline the provisions relating to exploration and mining on Aboriginal land, and improved land administration and local decision making.

For further information on the structure and role of the NTAIC, please visit NT Aboriginal Investment Corporation.

The Aboriginal Land and Waters (Jervis Bay Territory) Act

Jervis Bay Territory is a Commonwealth administered territory located approximately 250 kilometres east of Canberra and approximately 200 kilometres south of Sydney.

Under the Aboriginal Land and Waters (Jervis Bay Territory) Act 1986 the Commonwealth has vested about 90 per cent of the land in Jervis Bay Territory in the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council. The Council holds title to, and manages, the Aboriginal land including by granting residential leases to its registered members.

The Australian Government worked with the Wreck Bay community over a number of years to jointly develop a Bill to strengthen local governance and decision making, and help to facilitate home ownership style leases. The Government is also investing in housing in Wreck Bay, and is working in partnership with the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council to roll out the work.

Native title

Native Title includes rights and interests that relate to land and waters held by Indigenous people under traditional laws and customs, recognised by the common law in accordance with the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

We fund a network of Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers to assist native title groups across Australia. Further information and contact details are available on the Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers page.

Native title corporations (known as ‘Prescribed Bodies Corporate’) hold, manage and protect native title on behalf of traditional owners. The Australian Government assists these bodies through grant funding (see Grants below).

The Attorney-General’s Department is responsible for legal and legal-policy advice on the sections of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) which are the responsibility of the Attorney-General. More information is available at the Attorney-General's Department website.

Recent changes have been made to Native Title legislation that will affect Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs). More information is available on the Changes to Native Title legislation affecting PBCs webpage.

Native Title Ministers’ Meeting

Native title ministers’ meetings provide a forum for all Australian, state and territory ministers with responsibility for native title to meet, discuss and agree on cross-jurisdictional actions to address key issues in the native title system.

At the most recent meeting, on 15 October 2021, the Native Title Ministers issued the following Communique and Guiding Principles:

Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers Performance Reviews 2023-24

The Nous Group has been engaged to perform the work set out in the following Statement of Work. Work on the reviews starts early in 2023 and should be completed by July 2024. As indicated in the Statement of Work, results will be published on this website. 

Economic development

We are supporting Indigenous land owners and native title holders use their land for economic development.

The COAG Investigation into Indigenous Land Administration and Use recommended that governments support economic development by:

  • making it easier to recognise Indigenous rights and interests in land
  • Supporting bankable interests in Indigenous land
  • Improving the processes for doing business on Indigenous land and land subject to native title
  • Investing in the building blocks of land administration like town planning, cadastral surveys and infrastructure
  • Building accountable land holding and representative bodies.

NIAA has commissioned a Guide for Economic Development Opportunities on Indigenous Land - DOCX 155 KB to assist First Nations communities interested in pursuing land-based economic opportunities. NIAA also supported CSIRO to test pathways for co-developing the scientific, Indigenous knowledge, and business opportunity information needed to attract investment on Aboriginal land to support local enterprises. Information on this project is available at Developing Indigenous land and water enterprise opportunities in northern Australia.


PBC capacity building funding

The Agency invites eligible applicants to apply for PBC capacity building grant funding under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.


Indigenous Australians across the housing spectrum

Housing is the cornerstone to a range of economic and social outcomes. Stable housing helps support and maintain employment, health and nutrition, and improvements in education. Home ownership continues to be a widely held aspiration in Australia, providing security of tenure and long-term social and economic benefits to home owners. Australians access housing across a broad spectrum from public, social and community housing, to private rentals and home ownership.

Indigenous Australians make up three per cent of the general Australian population but hold 18.3 per cent of social housing tenancies. They constitute 25 per cent of the clients accessing specialist homelessness services in 2016–17. Indigenous Australians are overrepresented in homelessness and public housing and underrepresented in homeownership. Overcrowded conditions also persist in many remote communities.

Commonwealth investment in housing outcomes for Indigenous Australians

We work closely with state and territory governments – who are primarily responsible for housing in Australia – to deliver better housing outcomes for Indigenous Australians. The Commonwealth has and continues to provide significant funding contributions to address homelessness, overcrowding, poor housing conditions and increase home ownership, including through:

Economic independence and self-determination

The Commonwealth also recognises the Indigenous employment and training opportunities arising from its investments in housing. From 2016, specific employment targets were included in the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing – with all jurisdictions exceeding targets of at least 30 per cent. The National Partnership for Remote Housing Northern Territory sets an even higher bar by requiring a minimum 40 per cent Indigenous employment target, rising to 46 per cent in 2022.

We support Indigenous self-determination by maximising the autonomy and economic independence of Indigenous Australians. The Commonwealth Rights and Interests in Indigenous Property (CRIIP) project helps unlock economic development opportunities in Indigenous owned property assets. This is achieved by streamlining the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission caveats that prevent property disposal.

We also support Indigenous Business Australia, who have helped countless Indigenous Australians to realise their dreams of owning a home or running their own business.


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National Indigenous Australians Agency
PO Box 6500
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6271 5111

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