Terms of Reference
The Report identifies seven terms of reference which define the scope of the Committee's inquiry:
- Current engagement, structure and funding of representative bodies, including land council's and native title bodies such as PBC's
- The role, structure, performance and resourcing of Government entities (such as Supply Nation and Indigenous Business Australia)
- Legislative, administrative and funding constraints, and capacity for improving economic development engagement
- Strategies for the enhancement of economic development opportunities and capacity building for Traditional Owners of land and sea bodies
- The principle of free, prior, and informed consent
- Opportunities that are being accessed and that can be derived from native title and statutory titles such as the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976
- The overall impact these are having on encouraging investment and existing investment
Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 1 introduces the main challenge addressed in this Report. This challenge is centred around limits in relation to land use and how this has economic implications on the development of Northern Australia. This chapter also provides an overview of the function of native title law in Australia.
Chapter 2 - Strengthening Representative Bodies
Chapter 2 highlights the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative bodies to be better supported through funding. In 2020, the Productivity Commission supported this idea by highlighting how the broader strategic outcomes resulting from native title agreements will not be met when PBCs continue to struggle with adequate funding to meet basic obligations of the organisation.
Chapter 3 - Role and Performance of Government Entities
Chapter 3 highlights the negative impact that funding constraints have in relation to the main national Indigenous economic development agencies, Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC). Although not a government agency, Supply Nation is also considered as a key organisation with a role in facilitating Indigenous economic self determination.
The Indigenous Reference Group to the Ministerial Forum on northern development noted that the statutory remit of the government agencies under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 (Cth) meant that these agencies are limited in their ability to adequately support Northern Australian economic development (Report, 3.53). The Central Land Council further stressed that these agencies are not designed to meet the needs of Aboriginal people in remote and very remote areas (Report, Chapter 3.56). On another point, the National Native Title Council highlighted Traditional Owners and their organisations as reporting that these government economic development agencies do not have the capacity to respond to applications within a commercially viable timeframe (Report, Chapter 3.57).
Chapter 4 – Pathways to economic development
This chapter provides an overview of the ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have used their native title rights and interests to strengthen economic and social development.
There have been concerns around the idea that the development of Aboriginal land tenure, culture and rights in the north may constrain economic development (Report, Chapter 4.7). However, Dr Janet Hunt from the Australian National University says that this fear has been shown to be unfounded. Since the passing of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) and the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), says Dr Hunt, ‘the northern economy, rather than grinding to a halt, has diversified and grown’ (Report, Chapter 4.13). Several Aboriginal Land Councils shared this view and suggested that if governments recognised the capabilities of Traditional Owners their cultural knowledge, authority and wisdom could be leveraged to strengthen economic development (Report, Chapter 4.11).
Kimberley Land Council (KLC) stated in its submission that when Traditional Owners are 'engaged by government and industry in good faith’, they are ‘empowered to identify commercial opportunities which use resources sustainably, thus protecting Indigenous-held core values of country and culture...’ (Report, Chapter 4.8).
The Contribution of the Indigenous Business Sector to Australia’s Economy Report by PwC Indigenous Consulting (PIC) in 2018 noted that many Indigenous business owners made use of economic opportunities and utilised their businesses to drive change not only for their family but also for the wider community, with social returns on investments into Indigenous businesses such as creating $4.41 of economic and social value for every dollar spent (Report, Chapter 4.4).