A state parliamentary committee has recognised a ‘widespread desire’ from Aboriginal communities to have greater control over their land, including the Aboriginal Lands Trust returning land to community control.While the committee recognised the desire for change, it also stated that “there still needs to be a level of protection so the land is not put at risk”. It has recommended an independent inquiry into Aboriginal land ownership across the state.The Parliament of South Australia’s Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee has completed a review into the operations of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013. The Aboriginal Lands Trust is the body that manages some areas of land held in Trust for Aboriginal communities under that Act.South Australian Native Title Services (SANTS) submitted a written submission to the review and Chief Executive Officer Keith Thomas also addressed the Committee.In speaking to the Committee, Mr Thomas said that Trust land exists within several native title determined areas in the state, including Ngarrindjeri, Antakirinja Matu Yankunytjatjara, Adnyamathanha, Far West Coast, First People of the River Murray and Mallee, Barngarla and Kaurna peoples’ country.SANTS believes that divestment of ALT lands to native title groups is desirable and that the ALT Act 2013 should be amendment to establish suitable ways for this to occur.Mr Thomas said that the pieces of legislation around native title and Trust lands in South Australia are not complementary and can’t co-exist successfully within the complex legal frameworks that surround them. That can leave Aboriginal people directly involved confused and in some instances in conflict with each other, he told the Committee.Mr Thomas said that native title group’s corporations, Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) are the drivers of social, cultural and economic participation and provide the foundation for an ALT return of country to nativetitle holders and claimants.The divestment of the lands currently held the by the ALT is consistent with the principles of self-determination Mr Thomas said.SANTS will continue to participate in any reform to this area, with the aim of supporting traditional owners and Aboriginal communities to achieve sustainable nations.The Report of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee’s Review into the Operations of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013 is available on the Parliament of South Australian website: www.parliament.sa.gov.au
By Lucy Kingston
SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.