Legislative and policy frameworks

Councils must meet the requirements of specific parts of  legislation and policy frameworks which impact on councils’ work with Aboriginal people.

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 being streamlined. Further information can be found on the Office of Local Government’s reform website.

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 peoples for land and acknowledges that land set aside for Aboriginal peoples in the past was progressively reduced without compensation.

ALRA is important legislation because it recognises the rights of Aboriginal peoples 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.

National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974

This Act is a broad piece of legislation that covers a range of different areas including reserving lands, managing certain reserved lands, the protection of Aboriginal objects and places (on both public and private land), the protection of fauna and the protection of native vegetation. It nominates OEH As the lead agency on Aboriginal Cultural Heritage protection in NSW by delegating the power to regulate impacts on Aboriginal objects and places to the OEH Director-General.

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 Aboriginal 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.

Both NSWALC and LALCs have similar functions to protect and promote Aboriginal culture and heritage, acquire and manage land, facilitate business enterprise, provide community benefit schemes, and represent the interests of members.

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 on the NSW Aboriginal Land Council website.

Native Title and the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983

Accessing and managing lands or Country is of critical importance to Aboriginal peoples. In NSW there are two key mechanisms by which Aboriginal peoples can have their rights in land formally recognised – Land Rights and Native Title. Both systems formally recognise and provide for Aboriginal peoples’ rights, but the two systems operate under different laws and differ in the rights they can provide. Native title and land rights can sometimes exist on the same land.

Aboriginal Culture and Heritage Reforms

A Draft Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2018 has been developed as part of the reform process.