Legislative and policy frameworks

The following outlines the specific parts of relevant legislation and policy frameworks which impact on councils’ work with Aboriginal people.

The three main pieces of legislation impacting on Aboriginal communities are:

  • the Local Government Act 1993
  • the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983
  • the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

Local Government Act 1993

As part of the NSW Government’s reform program to strengthen the system of local government in NSW, the Local Government Act 1993 is currently under review. Further information can be found on the Office of Local Government’s reform website here.

Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983

The preamble to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA) states that land in NSW was traditionally owned and occupied by Aboriginal people, and is of spiritual, social, cultural and economic importance to Aboriginal people. It recognises the need of Aboriginal people for land and acknowledges that land set aside for Aboriginal people in the past was progressively reduced without compensation.

ALRA is important legislation because it recognises the rights of Aboriginal people in NSW and provides a vehicle for the expression of self-determination and self-governance. The purposes of the Act are:

  • to provide land rights for Aboriginal persons in NSW
  • to provide for representative Aboriginal Land Councils in NSW
  • to vest land in those Councils
  • to provide for the acquisition of land, and the management of land and other assets and investments, by or for those Councils and the allocation of funds to and by those Councils
  • to provide for the provision of community benefit schemes by or on behalf of those Councils.

NSW Aboriginal Land Council

NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is a self-funded statutory organisation created under ALRA, with a legislated objective to improve, protect and foster the best interests of all Aboriginal peoples in NSW. The NSWALC is made up of individuals elected to represent their region for fixed four-year-terms.

NSWALC provides support to the network of 120 autonomous Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) across the state, each with similar statutory objectives to NSWALC in regards to their own local communities. Each LALC is governed by a Board of representatives, who are also elected every four years.

There are over 23,000 members of Local Aboriginal Land Councils in NSW. A comprehensive list of LALCs across NSW, along with a map of their boundaries, can be found here.