Northern Land Council

The Northern Land Council (NLC) is in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia. It has its origins in the struggle of Australian Aboriginal people for rights to fair wages and land. This included the strike and walk off by the Gurindji people at Wave Hill, cattle station in 1966. The head office is located in Darwin. It was established in 1973.

The NLC Chairman is Samuel Bush-Blanasi.

It is one of four in the Northern Territory, the others are:

The most important responsibility of the councils is to consult traditional landowners and other Aboriginals who have an interest in Aboriginal land about land use, land management and access by external tourism, mining and other businesses. This sometimes involves facilitating group negotiation and consensus-building among scores of traditional Aboriginal landowner groups, and many other affected Aboriginal people. There are 30,000 Aboriginal people from 200 communities.

Many Aboriginal people in the Northern Land Council's area live in the major towns. There are about 200 communities scattered over Aboriginal land in the NLC's area, ranging in size from small family groups on outstations to settlements of up to 3,000 people.

The Northern Land Council is a representative body with statutory authority under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. It also has responsibilities under the Native Title Act 1993 (so the Native Title Tribunal) and the Pastoral Land Act 1992. The NLC's Top End zone is divided into seven regions with regional offices.

Today Aboriginal people make up 32.5% of the Northern Territory's population and own some 49% of the land in the Northern Territory.


The Commonwealth Government of Gough Whitlam set up the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, a Royal Commission, in February 1973 to inquire into how land rights might be achieved in the Northern Territory. Justice Woodward's first report in July 1973 recommended that a Northern Land Council and a Central Land Council be established in order to present to him the views of Aboriginal people.

In response to the report of the Royal Commission a Land Rights Bill was drafted, but the Whitlam Government was dismissed before it was passed.

The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was eventually passed by the Fraser Government on 16 December 1976 and began operation on Australia Day, that is 26 January 1977.

This Act established the basis upon which Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory could, for the first time, claim rights to land based on traditional occupation. In effect it allowed title to be transferred of most of the Aboriginal reserve lands and the opportunity to claim other land not owned, leased or being used by someone else.

Office locations

Head Office

Regional Offices

Regional Councils


    Australian National Audit Office

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