What is the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania?
The Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania is the statutory body, established by law to own returned land on behalf of Tasmania’s Aboriginal Community.
The Aboriginal Lands Act (1995) sets out the establishment, election and purpose of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania.
The Land Council is governed by a board of eight Aboriginal people, elected in a Tasmanian Electoral Commission election that is open to all people on the Aboriginal electors roll.
The Council includes two representatives from each of the South, North and North West regions and one each from truwana/Cape Barren Island and Flinders Island.
Elections are conducted every three years and Council members meet regularly to consider the operations and obligations of the organisation.
Functions of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania
The Aboriginal Lands Act (1995) explicitly lays out the functions and powers of the Land Council in Section 18. This includes:
(a) to use and sustainably manage Aboriginal land and its natural resources for the benefit of all Aboriginal persons;
(b) to exercise, for the benefit of all Aboriginal persons, the Council’s powers as owner of Aboriginal land;
(c) to prepare management plans in respect of Aboriginal land;
(d) to use and sustainably manage any other land in which the Council acquires an interest;
Additionally, the Act states “The Council must perform its functions for the benefit of all Aboriginal persons and in the interests of reconciliation with the broader Tasmanian community, and provides for the management of land to be delegated to a local Aboriginal group.”
Where is Aboriginal Land in lutruwita/Tasmania?
Since 1995, various parcels of Aboriginal Land have been returned incrementally by the Tasmanian Government.
The largest returns are in Bass Strait including truwana/Cape Barren, lungtalanana/Clark, Babel, Chappell, Badger and Big Dog Islands in the Furneaux group. In western Bass Strait titima/Trefoil and Steep Head Islands are now in Aboriginal ownership.
On mainland Tasmania, preminghana/Mt Cameron West, piyura kitina/Risdon Cove and putalia/Oyster Cover, as well as some cave sites in the remote southwest, were returned in recognition of their incredible ancestral and more contemporary cultural significance for Aboriginal people.
The tragic site of exile for Aborigines in 1834, Wybalenna on Flinders Island, was returned in 1999 and remains a poignant memorial to the dispossession and death that came with colonisation.
In 2012 and 2013, attempts to return land at Rebecca Creek and larapuna/Eddystone Point were stymied when they failed to pass Parliament’s Legislative Council.
Since then, no further Government attempts to return public hand have been made.
Who manages Aboriginal Land?
Aboriginal Land is managed by Aboriginal people.
Management Plans, called Healthy Country Plans are developed for Aboriginal Land and crews of Aboriginal rangers are dedicated to managing the natural, cultural and Community values of the land.
On truwana/ Cape Barren Island, the Land Council has established a team of seven rangers and runs a program of weed and feral animal control, heritage assessment and protection, science and education to protect truwana. Government and other funding is actively sought to sustain this program and fund special projects like Community on-Country trips and infrastructure upgrades.
Other lands are managed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s pakana Rangers, with collaboration between our rangers crews on special projects and some land.
Why buy land, what about the Native Title process?
In lutruwita/Tasmania, dispossession and exile of Aboriginal people was so complete that no Native Title rights are afforded Tasmania’s Aboriginal Community.
During the Black War of the 1820s and 30s, Aboriginal people were either killed or removed to offshore islands, with the last 134 tribal people known to be alive eventually transported and imprisoned at Wybalenna, where many systematically died of disease and dislocation.
The federal Native Title Act 1993(Cth) contains a recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had a system of law and ownership of their lands before European invasion, and these systems help define their rights to land.
While this is demonstrably the case in Tasmania, a ‘registration test’ that requires demonstration of continuity of traditional access and links knocks out Aboriginal eligibility in Tasmania. Tasmania’s history of absolute dispossession renders Native Title defunct.
Aboriginal rights to land in Tasmania are afforded via the Aboriginal Lands Act (1995), but realising these rights relies on political will and Parliamentary approval, something lacking for almost two decades.
Being gifted or purchasing private freehold title of land in Tasmania circumvents the failures of Parliament and flaws in the Native Title process.
Where your donation will go
The Giving Land Back campaign seeks donations of money or land.
Financial contributions will be deposited into a fund held by the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania and put towards the purchase and management of identified parcels of private land.
Land will be targeted for purchase based on a range of factors, including its cultural heritage values and integrity, natural values and state of health, location and suitability for on-Country activities with members of the Aboriginal Community.