Abstract: The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 incorporated, in large measure, progressive social measures recommended by Mr Justice Woodward to facilitate economic development for Aboriginal people. These included financial provisions for mining moneys to be channelled to Indigenous interests in order to facilitate the empowerment of land councils and the independent funding of the land claim process; to support regional economic development and the amelioration of the negative impacts of mining; and to assist general improvements in the socioeconomic status of Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory. This paper broadly assesses how over $300 million in mining royalty equivalents paid in the last 20 years to the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account (ABTA) have been utilised; whether largely unchanged provisions in the Land Rights Act made in 1976 are still appropriate in 1996 after passage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 and the Native Title Act 1993; and if not, what changes to the statute need to be considered by Indigenous interests to ensure that access to scarce discretionary resources are utilised optimally in the future. The analysis will end on a speculative note by assessing where Aboriginal economic development and land rights will be in 20 years time, with and without changes to the statute.
Notes: historical perspective ISSN: 1036 1774 ISBN: 0 7315 2560 4