The Stronger Land Account Bill, if legislated, would amend the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 1995 (ATSI Act). It has five main aims that are to:
1. Include a stronger purpose for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Account, specifying that the Land Account is a compensatory mechanism recognising past injustices and dispossession and acknowledging the special relationship Aboriginal arid Torres Strait Islander peoples have with their lands.
WHY: The current ATSI Act does not articulate the significance of the Land Account and the historic settlement from which it arose.
2. Prevent the Land Account from being utilised for any purpose other than the land-related benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
WHY: The Land Account remains vulnerable. If, for instance, the ILC had been merged with Indigenous Business Australia (the apparent purpose of the ILC/IBA Review) Land Account funds would have flowed into a larger, and potentially conflicted, organisation and been used sooner or laterfornon-land-related purposes.
3. Strengthen Indigenous control over the Land Account and the ILC by:
• requiring the Minister to consult with a new Indigenous Nomination Committee beforemaking appointments to the ILC Board
• strengthening the provisions that allow the ILC Board to give advice to Ministers on how the Land Account should be managed
• introducing a protective mechanism that requires Parliament to consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples before making any changes to the legislation that relates the Land Account
• strengthening the ILC’s status as an independent, Indigenous-controlled entity
WHY: The Land Account is an important institution and landmark of Indigenous rights. It is appropriate that Indigenous peoples have more say in matters relating to the Land Account, and its use, especially given Indigenous peoples’ status as the First Australians and as a tiny minority within a political system where majority interests dominate.
4. Introduce strong new measures requiring the ILC to comply with the highest standards of corporate governance, transparency and accountability including:
• limiting tenure and reappointments for Board members
• introducing stronger disclosure requirements for the ILC Chair and Board members
• strengthening the ILC’s Audit and Risk Management Committee including ensuring it is managed by an independent chair
• introducing provisions for a new Code of Conduct for ILC Board members and staff
WHY: The ILC Board is effectively the trustee of revenues received from the Land Account. The ILC Board should be held to the highest standards of accountability in the allocation and use of these funds.
5. Put in place a measure to ensure the Land Account grows over time, so it can continue to meet the expanding land acquisition and land management needs of future generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
WHY: The Indigenous population is likely to reach one million by 2026 and the growing Indigenous estate now covers at least 20 per cent of Australia. A larger Land Account is needed to meet future Indigenous land needs, especially if the ILC’s remit is extended to sea.
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