THE state government has sought regional input on proposed changes to the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
Yesterday Tamworth hosted the last of a string of public consultation forums spanning nine regions across NSW to discuss changes to the act, the result of a statutory five-year review.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello told The Leader the latest inspection of the act held greater significance than normal and was more akin to a “generational review”.
“As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of an act that enshrined Aboriginal land rights in law there is also a realisation that to achieve better outcomes, changes must be made,” he said.
“Rather than just a review of the act, it’s time for an upgrade of the engine.”
Reforms designed to cut unnecessary red tape, improve the land claim process, improve management of social housing schemes and reform of the regulatory framework were up for discussion.
The proposed changes to the act, which include proposals developed in consultation with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, are aimed at increasing the efficiency and governance of land councils.
Mr Dominello praised the 40-odd stakeholders in attendance for “stepping up to the plate” and having their say on alterations that would ultimately shape the future.
“This is not minor reform,” he said.
“We recognise if we get this right it sets up the Aboriginal community for the next generation.”
Tom Briggs of the NSW Aboriginal Lands Council said reviews such as these were critical for the long-term sustainability of the network.
“We are one of the more innovative regions. We want to capture and turn the ideas and aspirations of the community into reality,” he said of the Tamworth district.
He stressed in order to do this, administrative and regulatory dimensions of the act must meet community expectations.
Mr Dominello said the O’Farrell government plans to reverse past lethargy on Aboriginal land rights, saying the consultation process was a great chance to “empower the community”.
“There has not been the same level of injection or enthusiasm in the past and we are determined to work together with the community to leverage off their land to build capacity for their people,” he said.
Ideas and suggestions will be consolidated with a view to passing new legislation in March or April next year.
Those who were unable to travel to Tamworth can lodge written submissions.