Aboriginal Reserves

Contributed by PaulSheiner and KelsiForrest and current to 27 July 2018

Western Australia has never had land rights legislation as such. An Aboriginal Land Rights Bill was introduced into the State Parliament in the mid-1980s following the Seaman Inquiry, but it was not passed by the Legislative Council.

The Land Administration Act 1997 (WA) (“LAA”) provides that Crown land may be reserved for public purposes. Many reserves have been created in the State under the Land Act 1933 (WA) (the predecessor to the LAA) for the use and benefit of Aboriginal inhabitants. These lands have generally been placed under the care, control and management of the Aboriginal Lands Trust (“ALT”) under the LAA and the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 (WA) (“AAPA Act”).

At present, State Government policy is to provide 99 year leases at “pepercorn”, or near zero, rental to Aboriginal communities over Aboriginal reserve lands. The current policy of the ALT is also to eventually hand over ownership of reserves to relevant Aboriginal communities.

The AAPA Act makes it an offence for a person of non-Aboriginal descent to enter or remain on Aboriginal reserve without a permit. Members of Parliament, police, health and other governmental officers entering throughout Aboriginal Reserves in the course of their duties are exempt from having to obtain a permit. Under the entry permit provisions of the AAPA Act the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has the final power to grant or refuse a right of entry onto Aboriginal reserve lands (AAPA Act Section 31).

Under the AAPA Act the ALT may receive, for the benefit of Aborigines, any rental, royalty, share of profit or other revenue that may be negotiated or prescribed in relation to the use of reserved lands or the natural resources of that land, subject to the approval of the Treasurer.

The table below sets out the amounts approved by the State Government to be payable to the ALT from royalties and fees received from exploration and mining on Aboriginal reserve land.

Proportion of Annual Royalties and Fees Payable to the Aboriginal Lands Trust

Fees received by Government from exploration and mining on Aboriginal reserve land

Amount payable to the ALT

Up to $100,000

100% of the amount of royalties paid

$100,000 - $250,000

$100,000 + 50% of excess over $100,000

$250,000 - $500,000

$162,500 + 30% of excess over $250,000

$500,000 - $1 million

$240,000 + 15% of excess over $500,000

$1 million and over

$320,000 + 5% excess over $1 million

As a general rule the ALT allocates monies obtained from mining royalties and fees as follows:
  • 40% is retained by the ALT;
  • 30% is paid to the community where the mining operations occurred; and
  • 30% is paid to communities and organisations in the general area of the mining operations, but is not limited to the particular reserve on which the mining operations were conducted.

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