|The Aboriginal Land Act 1991 (Qld) (the Act) was passed along with the Torres Strait Islander Land Act 1991 (Qld) in order to provide mechanisms for land to be granted to groups of Indigenous people in Queensland. The Act acknowledges the dispossession of Indigenous people and the effects of past injustices. It expresses Parliament's recognition of the spiritual, social, historical, cultural and economic importance of land to Indigenous people and that these interests have not been adequately recognised by the law. The Act expresses Parliament's agreement that special measures need to be enacted to ensure the advancement of the interests of Indigenous people and to rectify the effects of past injustices. The object of the Act therefore, is to make provision for the appropriate recognition of interests and responsibilities of Indigenous people in relation to land, and to thereby encourage the 'capacity for self-development, and the self-reliance and cultural integrity, of the Aboriginal people of Queensland.' Two principal mechanisms are established under the Act: transfers of transferable land and grants of claimable land.|
A grant of transferable land occurs where ownership of land is transferred from a trustee (usually a government department or community council) to a group of Aboriginal people as trustees to hold the land for the benefit of Aboriginal people who are particularly concerned with the land (that is, who are connected to the land by tradition or custom, or who live on or use the land or neighbouring land). Only specified categories of land may be transferred. Land which is capable of transfer under the Act is:
- Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) land;
- Aboriginal reserve land;
- Aurukun Shire lease land;
- Mornington Island Shire lease land; and
- available Crown land declared by regulation to be transferable land.
A grant of claimable land occurs where a group of Aboriginal people successfully claims land set aside by the government as claimable land. A claim may be brought on the grounds of a traditional or customary affiliation to the land; an historical association to the land; or on the basis of economic or cultural viability (where granting the claim would assist in restoring, maintaining or enhancing the capacity for self-development, and the self reliance and cultural integrity, of the group). Land which is claimable under the Act is:
- available Crown land declared by regulation to be claimable land; and
- Aboriginal land that is transferred land.
Claims are heard by the Land Tribunal established under the Act, which recommends to the Minister whether or not land should be granted.
When Aboriginal people obtain ownership of land under the Act, either through a transfer or a grant, they become grantees of the land and a Land Trust automatically arises. The Land Trust, a body corporate of which the grantees are members, becomes the owner of the land. It holds the land on trust for the benefit of Aboriginal people, their ancestors and descendants. Generally, the title to the land is freehold (except in special circumstances where a lease is issued), subject to a very significant set of restrictions on dealings with it.
The Act, along with the Torres Strait Islander Land Act 1991 (Qld), is currently under review by the Queensland government. See the links below to the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water Issues Paper (August 2004), which identifies policy issues relating to proposed amendments, and Discussion Paper (March 2005), which outlines options for addressing the identified issues.