Take 'your' land and pay compensation with 'your' money

Reference: Australian Governmemnt - Office of Township Leasing Website

Government under fire for using Indigenous royalties


Nicholson Cartoon (adapted)

ABC News July 16, 2011

The Northern Land Council has criticised the Federal Government's use of Aboriginal money to obtain long-term leases over remote communities in the Northern Territory.

When the federal intervention was rolled out in 2007, the Howard government imposed five-year leases over the Territory's 73 Indigenous communities.

The leases expire next year and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin wants communities to sign new long-term leases of up to 99 years to provide security of tenure.

Legislation introduced in 2006 enables the Government to pay for rent for townships using the Aboriginal Benefits Account (ABA).

The ABA holds and distributes mining royalties paid to Aboriginal people for work on their land.

Land council chief executive Kim Hill says the Government should not "dip its fingers" into the money.

"Our consultations to date have been that traditional owners don't want a township lease," he said.

"[That is] based on a number of things. One, that the Government is accessing ABA moneys for their purposes, not for the benefit of Aboriginal people.

"Secondly, that private enterprises who operate on Aboriginal land, for example shops - the value of those existing leases will go down."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says it is appropriate this money is used.

Ms Macklin says the Government wants to see business develop in the communities.

"The Aboriginal Benefit Account is there for the benefit of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and as the people on Groote Eylandt are demonstrating, the reason they signed a township lease [is because] they think it's for their benefit," she said.

"So there's no question about the money going to the benefit of Aboriginal people in the communities that sign these leases."

But Mr Hill says Aboriginal people want genuine consultation.

"The Government is intensifying its consultations, particularly ascertaining a township lease," he said.

"Traditional owners are saying 'No we've had enough of them, we weren't consulted over the five year leases regarded in prescribed communities. We see this as an extension where traditional owners will be powerless."

Government caned for spending Indigenous mining royalties

Emma Masters ABC News July 12 2011

Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has described Federal Government use of the Aboriginal Benefits Account (ABA) to pay for long-term leases on Aboriginal land as "outrageous".

The Government wants township leases of up to 99 years on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, saying it will provide security to investors and stimulate remote economies.

The ABA holds and distributes mining royalties paid to Aboriginal people in the Territory.

It is used to pay traditional owners' royalties, run land councils and give grant money to Aboriginal organisations.

Mr Gooda says it should not be used to pay Aboriginal people compensation for leases on their land.

"I think it is pretty outrageous that the Government goes and negotiates leases with people over their whole townships," he said.

"They are required to pay just compensation but they are paying it out of the Aboriginal Benefits Account, which is actually Aboriginal money.

"It's like Darwin Council assuming someone's land and deciding to pay them compensation by raiding their own bank accounts."

Mr Gooda says it is important that Indigenous people know how the Government is using the ABA.

"For me, the big thing is about informed consent," he said.

"Are people actually informed when these leases are negotiated that the compensation that is going to be paid, or the lease costs that is going to be paid is going to come out of basically their own money?"

In a statement, the Government says the ABA was established for the benefit of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

It says it considers that township leasing reforms clearly provide benefits.

Minister criticised for using Aboriginal money to pay for leases

Michael Coggan Report ABC Radio: PM July 14, 2011

TRANSCRIPT

Stephen Long: the federal Indigenous affairs minister is under attack for using Aboriginal money to pay for leases over remote communities in the northern territory.

Several Aboriginal communities have signed up to long-term leases as part of Government moves to encourage private home ownership and business investment on Aboriginal land.

But the Government is taking lease payments out of Aboriginal peoples' mining royalties.
The Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says it's "outrageous".

Michael Coggan reports.

Michael Coggan: The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has just completed a two day visit to remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory as part of a six-week consultation to find out what to do with the Northern Territory Emergency Response when it finishes in August next year.

At a meeting yesterday in the community of Ngukurr in southern Arnhem Land, senior elder Walter Rogers welcomed Jenny Macklin and emphasised the importance of land ownership.

Walter Rogers: You come here to talk about our land. What you want to do to it. We want you to know there's nothing more important and precious to us, than our land.

Michael Coggan: Every wet season the road to Ngukurr is cut off for six months and building bridges and a new road was one of the priorities raised at the meeting with Jenny Macklin.

There was also anger at the way the Federal Government is using the Aboriginal Benefits Account to pay for long-term township leases over Aboriginal land in the Territory.

Traditional owner Eric Roberts.

Eric Roberts: Yes we're robbing black fellas to pay other black fellas. And we find this quite outrageous and strange altogether when it's the Federal Government's initiative, they should be the ones to get it out of the Federal Government's coffers and paying it.

Michael Coggan: The Federal Government wants communities to sign 99 or 40 year leases to enable private home ownership and business investment on Aboriginal land.

Several communities have signed up over the past four years.

The Aboriginal Benefits Account is used to hold and distribute Aboriginal mining royalties in the Territory and Eric Roberts says it's inappropriate for the Government to use the ABA to pay for the leases.

Eric Roberts: There was a mutual understanding between us traditional owners and why ABA should be set up - to get royalty payments and the Northern Territory Government and the Federal Government but ABA monies be used for Aboriginal businesses not for town leases.

Michael Coggan: At the meeting in Ngukurr yesterday the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin was asked why ABA funds are being used to pay the traditional owners.

Jenny Macklin: As you know the money from the Aboriginal Benefits Account has to be used for the benefit of Aboriginal people, that's the rules and it's our view that township leases, if they're agreed, we won't force it on anybody, if they're agreed, will be for the benefit of local people, because they will encourage and support businesses.

Michael Coggan: The Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says using the ABA to pay township leases is akin to allowing a local council to assume someone's private land and pay them compensation by raiding the owner's bank account.

Mick Gooda: I think it's pretty outrageous that the government goes and negotiates leases with people over their whole townships, they're required to pay just compensation but they're paying it out of the Aboriginal Benefits Account, which is actually Aboriginal money.

Michael Coggan: But Jenny Macklin is defending the decision to use the Aboriginal Benefits Account.

Jenny Macklin: Township leases are for the benefit of Aboriginal people and the Aboriginal Benefits Account has to be spent in the interests of Aboriginal people, and it is.

Michael Coggan: The traditional owners of Ngukurr are considering signing a township lease in the hope that the payments could help build an all weather access road to the community.

But there are concerns beyond whether the ABA should be used to pay for the lease.

Marjorie Hall Roberts is worried a township lease could interfere with traditional cultural practices.

Marjorie Hall Roberts: They need more consultation on it, more talk so that everybody get a fair idea what the lease is.

Stephen Long: Marjorie Hall Roberts from the community of Ngukurr ending that report from Michael Coggan.

Comments

Interesting article about

Interesting article about what on goes on between the federal government leases and aboriginal workers. Like some of the other responses, I lean more to it not quite making sense that the situation benefits the aboriginal workers, rather just the government.

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