Land and Housing
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights and interests in land are formally recognised for around 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass.
Connection to land is of central importance to Indigenous 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 Indigenous Australians so that Indigenous land can become an economic asset, as well as a cultural and spiritual asset.
We are supporting Indigenous land owners and native title holders to make choices about how they maximise economic development opportunities on their land.
Further information about the Northern Australia White Paper: Pilot reforms to land tenure is available. Funding is currently available for new pilots.
The Commonwealth has direct 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 specific type of long-term lease (up to 99 years) over communities on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Township leases can support bankable interests in land and positive economic development outcomes by providing long-term tradable tenure.
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.
Prescribed Bodies Corporate hold, manage and protect native title on behalf of native title holders. The Australian Government assists these bodies to maximise the social, cultural and economic potential of native title through a new grant funding process (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 and assistance to respondents involved in native title claims. More information is available at the Attorney-General's Department website.
We are supporting Indigenous land owners and native title holders to exercise choice in how they maximise Economic Development on their land.
The COAG Investigation into Indigenous Land Administration and Use recently looked at how governments can better support Indigenous land owners and native title holders to use their land for economic development. It recommended governments focus on:
- Gaining efficiencies and improving effectiveness in the process of recognising rights.
- Supporting bankable interests in land.
- Improving the processes for doing business on Indigenous land and land subject to native title.
- Investing in the building blocks of land administration (e.g. town planning, cadastral surveys and infrastructure).
- Building capable and accountable land holding and representative bodies.
Among other things, the Aboriginals Benefit Account funds a biannual grants round for proposals that benefit Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
The Jobs, Land and Economy Programme assists Indigenous people to generate economic and social benefits from their land assets. This includes supporting traditional owners to make well-informed decisions about how they can utilise their land, supporting long-term tradable tenure and enabling land reform and land administration for Indigenous land owners. It also supports Indigenous people to progress land and sea claims under Commonwealth native title and land rights legislation.
PBC capacity building funding
The Department is now inviting eligible applicants to apply for PBC capacity building grant funding under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
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.
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:
- The National Partnership for Remote Housing Northern Territory(2018 to 2023)
- The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (commencing July 2018)
- Separate funding contributions for remote housing to South Australia ($37.5 million) and Western Australia ($121 million) in 2018-19
- The Indigenous Home Ownership Program administered by Indigenous Business Australia
- The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (2008 to 2018)
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 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.