During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Friday 13 August 2021, I asked what work the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships is doing to facilitate and support First Nations use of the Aboriginal Land Act. You can read my previous Question on Notice, which I refer to in the hearing, here.
You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).
Mr BERKMAN: I wanted to refer back to question on notice No. 20 around the operation of the Aboriginal Land Act and the Torres Strait Islander Land Act, accepting that those are administered by the resources minister. The issue I was trying to get to with that question was that there were some concerns raised by claimants under the Aboriginal Land Act, or trustees of those claims, that, firstly, First Nations communities do not really know much or are not making the most of opportunities under those acts; and secondly, where they do have grants under those acts, it is difficult to do much with the land granted because of the nature of the title that is conferred. Minister, is the department doing any work to improve access to those opportunities within First Nations communities? Beyond that, is there consideration being given to funding that might be made available to assist in enterprise on claimed lands to make the most of those opportunities?
CHAIR: Minister, I will give you two seconds to think through that long question. Member, just be aware of the length of questioning and the preamble.
Mr BERKMAN: Indeed, thank you, Chair.
CHAIR: Minister, I will provide you with the liberty of responding as you see fit.
Mr CRAWFORD: There are a lot of moving parts to this. I take the member for Maiwar’s point that the land tenure can be very confusing. It can be very confusing for politicians as well, let alone for a traditional owner or if you are trying to understand how it all works. I think there is still a lot of work to be done by governments all across the country to try and simplify some of that. Obviously we have the Aboriginal Land Act, we have cultural heritage, we have Mabo—there is a range of things. At the moment, from our perspective, primarily it is around the joint management. National parks is probably the main one. The ranger programs are happening there around the joint management. I think those programs and those arrangements are giving us better insight as a government as to opportunities and where we could be going with other things as well. Does our department do any work in that space? Primarily, we hold cultural heritage. That is the legislation that we have and that is all being reviewed right now. I know you are aware of the complexities around cultural heritage and how that works. We are hoping to try and clean a lot of that up as best as we can as we move through the cultural heritage review and change some legislation. But there is still a lot more work to be done and there are lots of moving pieces. Clearly the resources department holds a number of those bits of the puzzle, as does the environment department, as does a whole heap of others.
In our role as the department, we want to try and use some of the levers that we have. One of those is very much around treaty. That is a fairly big lever that our department has to have that bit of influence on other parts of the government and also stakeholders around it, but there are also things like Closing the Gap that we mentioned before. We have what we call a RILIPO office, which is part of our department. Their primary role is about trying to get those issues ironed out as best we can, particularly in the regions for the family groups and TOs and that sort of thing to understand it better, but at the moment it is still quite a difficult exercise for a lot of people. We will just keep working on that and advocating where we can.
Mr BERKMAN: The RILIPO group that you referred to, that is not an acronym I have heard before.
Mr CRAWFORD: It is alright. It is one that took me a bit of while to work out. It is called the Remote Indigenous Land and Infrastructure Program Office. Good old government—we always like acronyms. If you can find one for my department, please let me know because we have not been able to find one yet. Essentially, the office uses a collaborative approach to resolve complex land administration issues, including native title, Indigenous Land Use Agreements, land tenure, survey, town planning, master planning and infrastructure development, as well as enabling home ownership and economic development. A lot of those components that we talked about before—that is the part of our team that tries to help navigate that for Indigenous Queenslanders. Essentially, a lot of our team is out in the rural or the regional parts of the state. We can get you a more fulsome briefing on RILIPO, if you like.
Mr BERKMAN: That would certainly be helpful. I know that this particular stakeholder that I am referring is very keen to understand. He referred to particular funding arrangements that were available around the analogous legislation and claims that exist in New South Wales. I am keen to understand— I know that plenty of stakeholders are keen to understand—what funding options there could be in the future for First Nations enterprise on land that is being claimed.
CHAIR: Member for Maiwar, do you have another question?
Mr BERKMAN: Sure. I will turn that into a question. I will direct this to Dr Sarra. Putting aside RILIPO, because I do not know that the Aboriginal Land Act was mentioned amongst those specifically that it was looking at, is the department looking specifically at funding opportunities for the use of land that is claimed under the Aboriginal Land Act or the Torres Strait Islander Land Act?
Dr Sarra: All I can do is refer back to the RILIPO work from the perspective of our department. The minister talked about that earlier. Land tenure matters, particularly in remote and discrete communities and other areas affected by the Land Act, are complex. The RILIPO team, primarily based in Cairns, work across government to try to iron out some of those complexities to ensure that things like town planning is done. I will check the terminology—that master planning is done from a community perspective and also from a town community perspective. They are also venturing into rural master planning.
They have executed infrastructure and housing Indigenous land use agreements on the islands of Boigu, Dauan, Erub, Iama, Mabuaig and many others in the Torres Strait; negotiated land use agreements for Mer and Poruma islands—they are due to be finalised by December. They are negotiating township Indigenous land use agreements for the communities of Cherbourg and Lockhart River, developing social housing Indigenous land use agreements and developing a social housing Indigenous land use agreements template to help 16 councils to address native title issues for the construction of public housing under the housing program funded by the Queensland government. They have provided land tenure and survey assistance for the Hope Vale Congress prescribed body corporate and continue to deliver a master planning initiative that has enable the completion of 21 urban master plans, with a further 11 master plans and four rural master plans currently in progress and due for completion at the end of 2021. That gives you a sense of the work that they do. It does not quite go to your specific interest in funding available to pursue those opportunities. I can assure you we are in constant dialogue with the Coordinator-General and with other major departments around any major work that is occurring to identify opportunities to stimulate Indigenous engagement in those project areas.