3 August 2013

Benefiting Indigenous communities through native title reform


Joint media release with
Jenny Macklin MP
Minister For Families, Community Services And Indigenous Affairs
Minister For Disability Reform
Mark Dreyfus QC MP

The Australian Government has today announced its support for further reforms to the native title system to continue to drive economic and social benefits for Indigenous Australians.

The reforms are based on the recommendations of the Working Group on Taxation of Native Title and Traditional Owner Benefits and Governance. The Working Group's report is also being released by the Government today.

The Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin  said the Government is providing in-principle support for all of the Working Group's recommendations and will develop these recommendations further in consultation with stakeholders. 

These recommendations include:

  • creating a new kind of not-for-profit body with income tax exempt status, called an Indigenous Community Development Corporation entity, for use by Indigenous communities;
  • regulating  private agents involved in negotiating native title agreements;
  • considering a statutory trust that would hold native title benefits where there was no other appropriate entity to hold them;
  • considering a process for the registration of native title agreements; and
  • clarifying that the native title holding community is the beneficial holder of native title benefits. 

The Government believes the Working Group's report provides clear direction for reforms which will benefit Indigenous communities.

"The report and recommendations reflect a broad consensus by the Working Group members on how best to ensure current and future generations of native title groups benefit from development on their land," Ms Macklin said.

"It is crucial that benefits flowing from native title rights and interests are used to provide real outcomes for the native title group, now and into the future."

"The recommendations complement the recent amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 that clarify native title benefits are not subject to income tax by focusing on the holding and managing of native title benefits," Mr Bradbury said.

"The Government is committed to working with native title groups to meet the current and future challenges of the native title environment, including making and maintaining high quality agreements and improving transparency and the governance of benefits," Mr Dreyfus said.

The Government established the Working Group in March 2013 to explore how to strengthen governance and promote sustainability in the management of native title benefits.

The Working Group included representatives from the National Native Title Council and the Minerals Council of Australia, academics, legal practitioners and philanthropists.

The Working Group's report and the Government's detailed response can be found on the Treasury website.