Significant Reform Of Native Title Act Proposed

The Federal Government is looking to develop and introduce amendments to the Native Title Act, which it says will more efficiently resolve claims, improve agreement making and promote the autonomy of native title groups in making decisions and resolving disputes.

An Options Paper has been released which brings together changes that have been recommended by several reviews of the Act in recent years. These include reviews by The Australian Law Reform Commission, the Council of Australian Governments and the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC).

The Government has invited feedback on the Reforms to the Native Title Act (Cth) 1993 Options Paper from Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) and other native title stakeholders. This feedback will be used to shape the amendments to the Act.

Full details of the possible changes are available on the Attorney General’s website here:

Key changes that are canvassed in the Options Paper can be summarised:

Section 31 Agreements

Section 31 agreements primarily relate to the grant of mining and exploration rights over land which may be subject to native title, and the compulsory acquisition of native title rights.

The Options Paper proposes confirming the validity of existing section 31 agreements and making changes to the role of the applicant in future section 31 agreements.

Authorisation and the applicant

The applicant for a native title or compensation application is the person or people who have been authorised by the wider native title claim group to act on their behalf.

The Options Paper proposes allowing claim groups to define the scope of the applicant’s authority in conducting a claim.

Agreement-making and future acts

The future acts regime within the Native Title Act provides ways for certain things to be done on native title land. A key feature of the future acts regime are ILUAs (Indigenous Land Use Agreements).

The Options Paper proposes several ways in which alternative agreement-making processes might be established. It also proposes changes it says would streamline existing agreement-making processes and mechanisms for making all native title agreement-making more transparent.

Indigenous decision-making

The Native Title Act currently prescribes that a traditional decision-making process must be adopted if one exists within the group.

The Options Paper proposes that native title claimants and native title holders should be permitted to select their decision-making process, whether traditional or not.

Claims resolution and process

Native title claimant applications seek the legal recognition of the rights and interests of the native title claim group to land and waters according to their traditional laws and customs. Compensation applications seek compensation for the loss or impairment of their native title rights and interests.

The Options Paper states that stakeholders consider that claims resolution procedures can be improved in a range of ways.

It proposes a range of options that it says aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of claims resolution.

Post determination dispute management

Prescribed Bodies Corporate are the entities charged with managing the native title rights of the common law holders. Importantly this includes a duty to consult the common law holders in relation to native title decisions.

The Options Paper states that native title disputes, in particular those between PBCs and native title holders, impact on governance and the ability of PBCs and native title holders to fulfil their obligations and to exercise their native title rights.

It proposes a range of options that it says aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of dispute resolution.

The complete Reforms to the Native Title Act (Cth) 1993 Options Paper can be viewed here:

Submission details:

Submissions on the options paper will be accepted until Thursday 25 January 2018.

Submissions can be emailed to

Submissions may also be posted to:

Native Title Unit

Attorney-General’s Department

3-5 National Circuit


If PBC stakeholders have any questions about the reforms process or the options included in the paper, please contact the Native Title Unit in the Attorney General’s Department:


Phone: (02) 6141 3615

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.