The Federal Government has recently made changes to legislation governing land granted pursuant to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth). One of the changes relates to the need to have permits to enter and remain on Aboriginal land, or seas adjoining Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory (‘permit’).
As from 18 August 2007, there is no longer a need for government officials, politicians and Commonwealth or Northern Territory officers to hold a permit in respect of Aboriginal land granted pursuant to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth). Commonwealth or Northern Territory officer means:
With regard to Commonwealth agencies, as the issuing authority, this Department will be writing to the relevant agencies in the near future advising that all existing permits that have been granted to its employees will be revoked as from a specified date.
With regard to Northern Territory Government agencies, individual departments will be responsible for ensuring their employees undertaking official duties on Aboriginal land carry an appropriate form of identification and/or authorisation to establish their credentials. Whilst they are no longer valid, it is envisaged that those holding existing permits to enter Aboriginal land will be able to use these as a form of identification.
Any existing unprocessed applications held by this Department will be returned to the originating agency.
The amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) also include the provision of Northern Territory laws to allow for temporary restrictions on entry to these areas to protect the privacy of cultural events (including ceremonies) or to protect public health and safety. These amendments to the Northern Territory’s legislation are currently being considered and an update will be provided at the appropriate time.
Please note that any non-government employee or member of the public will still require a permit from the appropriate land council to enter Aboriginal land. Members of the public will be entitled to use airstrips, landing places and access roads to major communities and have access to common areas in the communities. This provision will start no later than 18 February 2008.
Permits to enter Aboriginal Land and Seas for non-Government Employees are processed by Aboriginal Land Councils.