The emergence of community-entity township leasing in the NT: what does it mean and who defines benefit?

For more than a decade, land-owners and residents of remote Aboriginal communities on the mainland of the Northern Territory have resisted efforts by the Australian Government to persuade them to enter into long-term ‘township leases’. However, in 2017, land-owners and residents of two mainland communities, Mutitjulu and Gunyangara, plus Pirlangimpi on the Tiwi Islands, agreed to long-term community-entity township leases. Other communities are likely to follow. So what is a community-entity township lease? What does it mean for development in remote communities, for relationships between traditional owners and residents, and for the role of the land councils?

This seminar provides an overview of arguably the biggest development in land rights in the NT in recent decades, tracing the journey from ‘township leasing’ to the emergence of the alternative ‘community-entity township leasing’ model. Drawing on the example of the Mutitjulu community-entity township lease, the significance of this reform to the operations of the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act is examined.

In addition, the seminar invites critical comment on the design of an early-stage PhD research project that seeks to conduct the first evaluation of a township lease. This research asks ‘who defines benefit?’ and how should Indigenous land tenure reform be evaluated? It aims to apply an evaluation approach that facilitates the expression of local community and traditional owner worldviews, perspectives and measurements of success, and ‘indigenises’ (Chilisa 2016) the evaluation process.

Jayne Weepers is a PhD scholar at the Law School at the University of New South Wales. Before commencing her candidature, she worked for the Central Land Council for eighteen years, joining in 1999 after extensive environmental policy and advocacy work for various NGOs. She worked as the CLC’s Manager of Policy and Research, and was responsible for coordinating all aspects of the CLC’s research and policy development work, including facilitating discussions with remote communities, working with the CLC’s 90-member Council, and managing government relations and negotiations.

In 2014 she completed a Master of Politics and Policy at Deakin University. In 2017 she was awarded a Scientia PhD Scholarship at the University of New South Wales, and commenced her PhD research in 2018. Ms Weepers was born in Darwin and lived and worked in Alice Springs for 18 years with her family.

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Updated:  29 October 2018/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications