Closing the Gap - Funding for the Native Title System

Closing the Gap - Funding for the Native Title System

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; National Native Title Tribunal; Attorney-General's Department; Federal Court of Australia

Key Elements

The Australian Government will:

  1. continue the additional funding of $71.6 million over four years for the native title system agreed in the 2005-06 Budget and otherwise due to lapse in 2009‑10; and
  2. provide a further additional $50.1 million over four years for the operation of the native title system.

This additional funding will improve the operation of the native title system and realise the potential of native title to contribute to closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage and improving economic outcomes.

The measure includes $62.1 million over four years in additional funding for the operations of Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRB), the legal representatives of most claimant groups - $16.3 million by diversion of continued lapsing funding from other agencies in the native title system, and $45.8 million in new additional funding.

It also provides $4.3 million over four years for a range of initiatives to improve and streamline the operation of the system and improve the rate of resolution of claims in the system.  These include more flexible approaches to connection evidence, streamlining participation of non-government respondents, improving access to land tenure information, promoting broader and more flexible native title settlement packages, initiatives to increase the quality and quantity of anthropologists and other experts working in the native title system, and partnerships with State and Territory Governments to develop new approaches to the settlement of claims through negotiated agreements.

Background

A review of funding in the native title system in 2008 found that the level of resources available to the system was inadequate for effective operation, and that additional funding was needed to increase the rate of resolution of native title claims.  In particular, the review found that NTRB were substantially under-resourced for the task they were expected to perform in the system.

The additional funds will improve the rate of resolution of claims by increasing the capacities of NTRB, allowing them to negotiate effectively on behalf of their native title clients and leverage improved social and economic conditions for affected communities in the process.

In addition, the measure will support the development of new approaches to the settlement of claims with the States and Territories and increasing the quality and quantity of anthropologists and other experts working within the system.

These initiatives will harness the significant potential of native title to contribute to the Government’s target to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and improve economic development outcomes. 

The more timely recognition of native title can also help reset the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and facilitate improved governance and leadership in Indigenous communities.  In addition, the resolution of native title claims can remove barriers to investment and infrastructure and allow for the leveraging of native title rights and interests for economic development opportunities.

Implementation

The continued lapsing program funding is already in the system and will remain as ongoing funding, with a redistribution of some funds from the Attorney-General’s Department and the National Native Title Tribunal to funding for NTRB operations. The new additional funding of $50.1 million will be provided over four years - $4.0 million in 2009-10, $10.6 million in 2010-11, $17.1 million in 2011-12, and $18.4 million in 2012-13.

Total Government Funding:

$50.1 million over four years in new additional funding.

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