|The ALRA provides for the appointment of an Aboriginal Land Commissioner whose primary function was to receive applications made by or on behalf of Aboriginals ‘claiming to have a traditional land claim to an area of land, being unalienated Crown land or alienated Crown land in which all estates and interests not held by the Crown are held by, or on behalf of, Aboriginals’ (s 50(1)(a)). The role of the Commissioner was to ‘ascertain whether those Aboriginals or any other Aboriginals are the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land’(s 50(1)(a)(i)).|
If a claim was successful a fee simple grant of land was made to an Aboriginal Land Trust. An Aboriginal Land Trust holds title to land for the benefit of the Aboriginals concerned and acts in accordance with directions given by the relevant Land Council. Except in limited circumstances permitted under the ALRA it cannot dispose of land held by it, which means that, basically, land is held by a Land Trust by way of inalienable fee simple title.
The ALRA specified a 20-year period for claims to be lodged, which closed in 1997.
The ALRA contains provisions setting out the terms and conditions upon which mineral exploration licences, mining interests and other leases and interests can be granted over land held by an Aboriginal Land Trust.
Depending upon the nature of the interest granted over Aboriginal land and the nature of the agreement negotiated, there are various ways in which money is eventually received, via the relevant Land Council, by the relevant Aboriginal person or group over whose land the activity takes place.
In the case of royalties paid by mining companies to the Northern Territory or the Commonwealth Governments, the ALRA established the Aboriginals Benefit Reserve. The Reserve consists of funds taken from the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund, for amounts to equal any royalties received by the Commonwealth or the Northern Territory in respect of a mining interest in Aboriginal land. A percentage of the funds in the Reserve is distributed to the Land Councils for administrative purposes. A further percentage is paid to Aboriginal Councils the areas of which are included in the area affected by the relevant mining operations, or to Incorporated Aboriginal Associations the members of which live in or are the traditional Aboriginal owners of, the area affected by the relevant mining operations.
The ALRA controls entry onto Aboriginal Land and prohibits a person (other than an entitled Aboriginal person or group) from entering onto or remaining on Aboriginal land without a permit (s70). (A penalty of $1,000 applies). The Aboriginal Land Act 1992 (NT) operates concurrently with the ALRA and deals with entry onto Aboriginal land and control of entry into seas adjoining Aboriginal land.
In the same way entering onto or remaining on land that is a sacred site (other than by an entitled Aboriginal person or group) provokes a penalty of $1,000 (s69)(1)).
The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has the power to enact legislation regarding Aboriginal land under the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978, which is effective to the extent it operates concurrently with the ALRA.