The Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) was originally established pursuant to the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966 to hold, in trust, titles of existing Aboriginal Reserves on behalf of all Aboriginal people in South Australia.
The South Australian Government provides land rights administration funding to the ALT and works with the Trust on a range of economic, community development and landcare projects across the state.
The Trust may lease, mortgage or otherwise deal with ALT land or develop the land. Both Houses of Parliament are required to approve the sale of land by the Trust. The Trust may use its funds for the development and improvement of ALT land and the purchase of further land. It may also use its funds to provide assistance to Aboriginal groups.
In recent years, the South Australian Government has worked with the ALT to review and update the Act and to reform the Trust to ensure its continued relevance as an Aboriginal landholding authority into the future. This work culminated in the creation of a new Act – the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013 – which came into operation on 1 July 2014.
The Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013 (the ALT Act) is committed to the Premier, as the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation. .
The role of the Minister, as set out in the Act, is to oversee the operations of the ALT, and to ensure that the 'value and benefit' of ALT land is preserved for Aboriginal South Australians. This is done through:
- appointing the Presiding and Deputy Presiding Member after consultation with the Trust Board
- requiring reports and tabling of reports in Parliament
- establishing a Commercial Development Advisory committee and its Presiding Member
- having the power to direct the Trust to take certain actions in certain circumstances
- having the power to suspend the Trust in certain circumstance.
The ALT Board
The ALT Board consists of eight Aboriginal members appointed by the Governor:
- Haydyn Bromley (Presiding Member)
- Karen Sinclair (Deputy Presiding Member)
- Ian Johnson
- Edward Newchurch
- Irene McKenzie
- Jennifer Johncock
- Elijah Bravington
- Denise Wilton
From time to time, vacancies exist for new members to be appointed to the board. After a public call for nominations, and recommendations from a selection panel, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation nominates new or continuing members to the Governor.
Terms of appointment for the majority of Board members are until 17 July 2020.
Native title and the ALT
The Native Title Act 1993 (the NTA) defines Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders land or waters (Aboriginal land) to include land or waters held by or for the benefit of Aboriginal peoples or Torres Strait Islanders under the ALT Act.
The NTA applies to Aboriginal land, including ALT land, in a different way to ordinary land.
The ALT Act does not diminish any Native Title rights or interests. The distinction reflects the policy that the Australian Government adopted in framing the NTA to ensure that land to which Aboriginal people had some statutory title (like land rights or lands trust legislation) should not lose the benefit of a native title determination because the legislation itself extinguished native title (i.e. by granting freehold title, which would normally extinguish native title).
The main differences between ordinary land and ALT land are:
- the future act regime of the NTA, including the right to negotiate, does not apply to ALT land
- Indigenous Land Use Agreements cannot be negotiated solely over ALT land.
Most of the land held by the ALT is former mission land or land reserved for the benefit of Aboriginal people. Other land was former pastoral lease or other crown land.
Because of the history of this land, and the removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional lands to missions and reserves, the interests of the ALT, residents and native title holders are not the same, and are held by different people. How these different rights and interests are acknowledged and managed in the future is a very important matter for discussion and negotiation within the Aboriginal community.
Under the ALT Act the Trust must consult with all interested parties including native title holders before transferring any Trust Land outside of the Trust estate and both Houses of Parliament must approve any such transfer of Trust Land.
Review of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013 by the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee
The Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee is required under section 68 of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013, to review the operation of this Act for the period 1 July 2014 to 1 July 2017.
In particular, the review, which commenced in September 2017, is considering:
- whether the objects of the Act have been achieved
- how effective this Act has been in:
- enabling the Trust to act strategically and to maximise the value of its landholding for the benefit of Aboriginal people
- providing the Trust with more autonomy in its dealings with Trust land
- enabling a process for Aboriginal community involvement in decision making relating to Aboriginal Land Trust matters.
- whether the new skill-base requirement for membership on the Aboriginal Lands Trust Board has assisted the Trust in its functions
- whether the operation of the Act has made an appreciable difference in increasing benefits to Aboriginal South Australians
- whether the operation of the Act has adversely affected Aboriginal people.
At the completion of the review, the Committee will table its report in both Houses of Parliament.