Various sources report concern with the Commonwealth Government’s push for 99-year leases and the Forrest Report recommendation that Aboriginal land to be privatised so as to be bought and sold. Essentially, the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments want Aboriginal traditional owners to agree to converting current ownership to 99 year lease titles so that they can fund public housing, facilities and infrastructure. Ian Viner’s letter to the editor (Alice Springs News) notes that the 99 year lease undermines the land-rights act.
He writes that – “ The truth of the matter is that the grant of 99-year leases to the Commonwealth is not necessary. The Land Rights Act expressly has provision for the grant of leasehold interests in traditional lands under conditions which preserve the traditional ownership of the Land Trusts and the in-built protections of the Act
It is wrong of the Commonwealth to promise funding for community infrastructure, including public buildings and housing only on condition of the handing over of 99-year leases. That is coercion or bribery no better than the exchange, colonial-style, of “beads and bangles” by which Indigenous people around the world were deprived of their traditional lands. Those days should have long passed out of Government thinking and policies.
The situation is worse when it is understood that the money the Commonwealth promises to spend if a community agrees to a 99-year lease will be the Aboriginal people’s own trust money taken from the Aboriginal Benefit Account (ABA). That really is a smoke and mirrors promise.