Aboriginal ownership and lease-back agreements are established by Part 4A of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) and the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. These two Acts set up a process by which parks and reserves listed in Schedule 14 of the NPW Act and some land claims can be returned to a local Aboriginal land council to hold on behalf of Aboriginal owners.
A park or reserve that has been returned to the local Aboriginal land council is then leased back to the NSW Government, with the term of the lease set at 30 years. Lease payments must be spent on the care and management of the park or reserve. A lease can be renewed for another 30 years as long as certain provisions are included.
Management of lease-back agreements
The care, control and management of an Aboriginal-owned park or reserve is vested in a board of management. The board of management, appointed by the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, consists of:
- a majority of Aboriginal owners
- representatives of NPWS/OEH
- local government
- a conservation group
- adjoining landholders or neighbours
- a representative of the local Aboriginal land council.
In Aboriginal ownership and lease-back of a park or reserve:
- Aboriginal owners, as the majority representatives on the board of management, have a central role in running the Aboriginal-owned parks and reserves
- the rent paid by the NSW Government must be used for the care, control and management of the park; rent will vary from park to park, and depend on a range of factors set out in the NPW Act
- the economic benefits for Aboriginal people come from management of the park, and can include employment opportunities such as park management, cultural tourism and contract work
- Aboriginal owners (and Aboriginal people with the consent of the board) may hunt, gather and fish on the land for domestic, cultural and ceremonial purposes, subject to the requirements of the NPW Act, a park’s plan of management, the approval of the board of management and in accordance with traditions.