Landmark reforms passed today in Parliament will establish a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Future Fund and expand the functions of the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) to include water and put the organisation on a more sustainable financial footing.
The legislative changes give effect to the Coalition Government’s decision to establish a dedicated financial asset fund to support the long-term sustainability of the ILC which, under the reforms, will be renamed the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.
The ILC, and the Land Account which funds the ILC, hold an important place in Australia’s land rights movement. Established following the High Court’s Mabo decision, these institutions serve to enable Indigenous Australians who are unable to assert native title to regain control of their land.
Despite this, the Land Account has been plagued with low rates of return, jeopardising the financial security of the ILC and meaning lost opportunities for the Indigenous estate.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Future Fund Bill 2018 replaces the Land Account with a new Land and Sea Future Fund to better support the ILC to grow the Indigenous estate over the long-term. Land Account assets will be transferred to the new Fund.
The Future Fund Board of Guardians – an experienced and trusted investor of public money – will manage the new Fund. The Board of Guardians will be able to invest in a wide range of assets in order to grow the new Fund and secure the financial position of the ILC over the long term.
For the first time, the ILC will also be able to assist Indigenous Australians reap economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits from fresh and sea water country.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Amendment (Indigenous Land Corporation) Bill 2018 extends the functions of the ILC to include the acquisition and management of rights in relation to water – to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to benefit from water country.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion said the Bills, which were introduced into Parliament earlier this year, represent a historic moment in Australia’s land rights journey.
“The Coalition Government has listened and acted by introducing these ground-breaking reforms,” Minister Scullion said.
“We’re fulfilling our promise to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and we’re getting results.”
“Securing sustainable funding arrangements for the Indigenous Land Corporation will allow it to continue to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to achieve their economic, environmental, social or cultural goals into the future.”
“Through these landmark reforms, the Coalition Government is realising its commitment to improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
“The Coalition Government has worked across the Parliament to pass these important reforms, and I acknowledge the productive working relationship with the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens in passing these reforms."
The ILC has statutory responsibilities to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to acquire and manage land so they can gain economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits.
Minister Scullion said the reforms would support the full range of opportunities for Indigenous economic development.
“This government is creating opportunities for Indigenous Australians to access water-related rights and enable the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation to support the full range of opportunities for Indigenous economic development in sectors such as fisheries, agriculture and tourism,” Minister Scullion said.
“This is more consistent with the understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have of country, where land and water are inseparable.”