Creating a Better System
There are many concerns with the current policy framework, in particular the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and a lack of action on legislative amendments that will improve the operation of the Native Title Act. The IAS in its current form has not supported the principles of Indigenous control; has not supported either Indigenous controlled organisations or the empowerment of communities; and does not adequately provide for the right for Aboriginal people to economically develop.
The Native Title Act must deliver on its initial intent to provide meaningful rights and a basis for economic and community development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Native title provides certainty to developers and all land users, it streamlines the process by reducing the amount of red tape and regulations and gives them certainty that they are dealing with the right Traditional Owners for that area. Traditional Owners do not intend to stop development but want to promote development in such a way that country and culture is protected.
Creating a Better System is the third fundamental pillar for the NNTC agenda over the next two years. Initiatives will include activities around the following areas:
- Promoting legislative amendments – ALRC and Native Title Reform Bill that among other things will assist in the reduction of red tape
- Lobbying for adequate resources for the sector
- Seeking an improved IAS program
- Lobbying for increased PBC funding
- Seeking a Commonwealth financial contribution to settlements
- Seeking funding security for the NTRB/SP sub-sector
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recommended a number of amendments to the Native Title Act following their ‘Inquiry into Commonwealth native title laws and legal frameworks in the area of connection requirements and authorisation provisions’.
Whilst the ALRC found that the current framework of law and procedure was generally effective they did make a number of targeted recommendations designed to expedite the claims resolution process, address the complexities of proving native title and apply the law flexibly to allow evolution, adaptation and development of laws and customs to native title rights and interests.
A number of the ALRC recommendations can be achieved by technical amendment to the Native Title Act and have received broad support from governments and other key stakeholders. The NNTC will therefore pursue amendments to the Native Title Act as recommended by the ALRC and others in order to facilitate the resolution of native title claims and provide a fairer system for native title claimants to pursue their rights and interests in land.
Achieving an efficient and effective sector requires adequate resources for those organisations with statutory responsibilities including NTRBs/SPs, PBCs and Traditional Owner Corporations. The system needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the diverse needs and expectations of Traditional Owners and to cover both the pre and post-determination needs of organisations and their client base.
As noted by Deloitte Access Economics in their final report of the ‘Review of the Roles and Functions of Native Title Organisations’ the system must provide scope for RNTBCs to develop their capacity in order for the native title system to deliver meaningful benefits for Indigenous Australians. Deloittes also noted that a base level of support for NTRBs/SPs should be provided in order to maintain their core capabilities in legal services for future acts and agreement making as well as claim resolution. In addition, resource needs should also be recognised in the settlements reached with state and territory governments.
Given that the resource needs for the sector would be fairly modest, the NNTC will be lobbying for adequate resources through a re prioritisation of existing programs to ensure the sustainability and security of the Indigenous native title sector.
 Australian Law Reform Commission, Connection to Country: Review of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), Final Report (2015), p. 26.
 Deloitte Access Economics, Review of the Roles and Functions of Native Title Organisations, March 2014