Prior to the Act, Indigenous councils throughout Queensland generally held land under community control in trust for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The most significant change to Indigenous land tenure in Queensland contained in the Act allows for the transformation from land held in trust to individual ownership, under Part 2A. The Act creates a mechanism for Indigenous councils to voluntarily transform this type of land ownership, referred to as the 'freehold model' (Cripps, 2014). Under the freehold model, Indigenous councils may consult with their communities and request the Minister to approve the grant of land, divided up into smaller portions for individuals.
Note that the freehold model requires native title holders surrender all native title rights and interests. The process for this surrender is costly, and an Indigenous Land Use Agreement must be negotiated to transform the land to individual ownership (Warner and Geritz, 2014).
Other key changes introduced by the Act include:
- simplifying the leasing framework for grants of leases that are not for home ownership, under s 122;
- introducing valuation systems for rating purposes, under Chapter 4; and
- allowing public access to beaches, under s 61.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, in his second reading speech outlined the objects of the Act as being to 'remove barriers to home ownership and drive economic development' in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities (Cripps, 2014).
The Queensland Government described the Act as an overdue step in the historical progression of land rights for First Nations people in Queensland (Cripps, 2014). This history began with the State holding land for the benefit of Indigenous communities, before moving to community control alongside native title rights and interests. The Act has added the option of individual ownership of land.