Aboriginal Land Council Media Release November 2020


November 2020

Indigenous landowners invest $23m in royalty money to benefit local communities

Indigenous landowners across the Northern Territory invested $23m of their own income in community development projects in 2018-19 with support from the Central Land Council (CLC) and Northern Land Council (NLC). La Trobe’s Institute for Human Security and Social Change’s independent monitoring of this work demonstrates that Indigenous people believe these projects are making remote communities much better places to live and giving Indigenous people more control over their lives and futures.

Robyn Lawson, an Indigenous decision-maker and CLC program participant from the remote Tanami Desert region who was interviewed said, “I tell you straight, if we didn’t have CLC CD program community would still be struggling. We’d still be under government rules and things would be happening slowly, out of our control or sometimes never.”

The monitoring shows that the investment of land use payments through the CLC and NLC’s Indigenous-led approach is creating substantial benefits. Over 50 communities between Mutitjulu in Central Australia and Galiwin’ku in North East Arnhem Land are designing and funding their own projects in areas such as education, youth employment, maintaining language and culture, rather than making payments to individuals. Participants believe this is both benefitting people now and building a stronger future for their children and grandchildren.

The projects are funded through payments made to traditional owners and affected communities under land-use agreements with governments, mining companies and other third parties. Investing revenue from natural resources back into communities is an important last step in the value chain, but one that is often missed.

CLC CEO Joe Martin-Jard said, “the genuine control Aboriginal people have over decisions and the volume of community projects delivered through the program is really impressive. The strong support from our Council and constituents for the program is really clear in the monitoring, plus we always get good feedback and ideas for further program improvements.”

The monitoring finds that for many of the Aboriginal people involved in the program, this is the first time they have felt empowered in deciding what their communities need and have the capacity and support they need to translate their ideas into action and outcomes.

Ongoing monitoring helps ensure both programs continue to respond to the needs of Indigenous participants and achieve their outcomes. The CLC, which started its program in 2005 has been engaging La Trobe University to prepare independent annual monitoring reports since 2012, and the NLC’s much newer program since 2017. “This assessment provides each Land Council with an annual review of the value of the work and empowers Indigenous people with information to further target investments and improve outcomes for their communities,” said Institute Senior Research Fellow, Danielle Campbell.

This is significant given the Productivity Commission’s recent overall assessment that despite decades of policies and programs directed at improving the wellbeing of Aboriginal people, there is rarely any systematic review or evaluation about the impact of these policies and programs.

About La Trobe’s Institute for Human Society and Social Change

La Trobe University, in Victoria, Australia, and is recognised a world-leading University working towards the UN’s goals for sustainable development.  The Institute for Human Society and Social Change seeks to actively contribute to progressive social change through researching and supporting social change initiatives. The Institute aims a be a resource for re-imagining how social change happens, including the translation of research findings into education, practice and policy.

About the Central Land Council (CLC)

CLC’s community development program has been running since 2005. In 2018-19, CLC community development officers worked alongside Aboriginal governance groups established by the program to channel $20.3m of Aboriginal money into 214 local community projects.  Click to read the monitoring report

About the Northern Land Council (NLC)

The NLC Community Planning and Development Program began in 2016 and is modelled on the CLC approach. It is currently delivering 27 projects worth over $3 million.  Click to read the monitoring report

Contact: Danielle Campbell | Danielle.campbell@latrobe.edu.au | 0407 443 226