Joint Land Council Economic Development Strategy

Orig­i­nal­ly estab­lished as a devel­op­er of viable com­mer­cial economies on Abo­rig­i­nal lands for the ben­e­fit of Tra­di­tion­al Own­ers and com­mu­ni­ties, Cen­tre­farm has more than a decade of prac­ti­cal on-the-ground expe­ri­ence of what is required, what works and what does not in this high­ly com­plex space.

This expe­ri­ence has enabled Cen­tre­farm to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment Strat­e­gy (EDS) for the NT main­land Abo­rig­i­nal estate in asso­ci­a­tion with the North­ern and Cen­tral Land Coun­cils. A core fea­ture of the EDS is the estab­lish­ment of the Abo­rig­i­nal Land Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment Agency (ALE­DA), which was incor­po­rat­ed in 2018 to act as the agency to imple­ment and dri­ve ​‘at-scale’ mul­ti-indus­try devel­op­ments through­out the NT. ALE­DA is to act as the point of ref­er­ence and be the lead agency for eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment on Abo­rig­i­nal land.

The EDS is not a dis­crete sin­gle project, but a com­pre­hen­sive, long-term plan that encom­pass­es both the com­mer­cial and the cul­tur­al require­ments nec­es­sary to ensure Abo­rig­i­nal con­trol at every stage. The EDS address­es the tran­si­tion from wel­fare depen­dence to eco­nom­ic par­tic­i­pa­tion; and the adap­tion of sys­tems, poli­cies and approach­es to ensure Abo­rig­i­nal con­trol of that process.

The con­ven­tion­al approach to eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment on Abo­rig­i­nal land in the NT has proven to con­sis­tent­ly fail. Abo­rig­i­nal Aus­tralians are para­mount stake­hold­ers in the North­ern Aus­tralian econ­o­my either own­ing or hav­ing some legal con­trol over 90% of the NT land and sea. It is essen­tial that Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples are at the fore­front of any eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and unless Abo­rig­i­nal inter­ests align with com­mer­cial devel­op­ments, they may fail both social­ly and economically.

The strat­e­gy address­es the core eco­nom­ic com­po­nents of land, cap­i­tal and labour and responds to key chal­lenges with inno­v­a­tive solu­tions designed to bring togeth­er Abo­rig­i­nal aspi­ra­tions and knowl­edge with com­mer­cial busi­ness and development.

It pro­pos­es solu­tions to the key chal­lenges iden­ti­fied from this work, includ­ing an inno­v­a­tive invest­ment mech­a­nism (the Pilot Cap­i­tal Fund) drawn from mod­els such as the Clean Ener­gy Finance Cor­po­ra­tion and the Export Finance and Insur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion, which will facil­i­tate the entry of cap­i­tal onto Indige­nous lands and pro­vide proof of con­cept for the Strategy.

The strat­e­gy is about facil­i­tat­ing Abo­rig­i­nal landown­ers to become land­lords, dri­ving devel­op­ment to realise the full poten­tial of their land hold­ings, and enabling the suc­cess­ful devel­op­ment of north­ern Australia.

The Land Council’s exec­u­tive com­mit­tees have endorsed the EDS draft which, togeth­er with the State­ment of Strate­gic Intent and eight Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples, forms the oper­a­tional and strate­gic base for ALE­DA. Ter­ri­to­ry-wide on-site con­sul­ta­tions with over 90% of CLC and NLC del­e­gates and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of their com­mu­ni­ties on the Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples and oper­a­tion of the EDS has deliv­ered sig­nif­i­cant feed­back and wide­spread support.

The draft EDS will be sub­ject to a pilot phase from 2020 – 2024 at six loca­tions across the NT. Dur­ing the pilot phase, work will be under­tak­en towards pro­duc­ing a Prospec­tus of live oppor­tu­ni­ties in var­ied indus­try sec­tors for projects across the NT Abo­rig­i­nal Estate that are fea­si­bil­i­ty test­ed and ready for investment.

NT-wide con­sul­ta­tions

With the assis­tance of the NLC and CLC, Cen­tre­farm con­duct­ed a thor­ough and exten­sive series of meet­ings and work­shops through­out the NT in 2017 and 2018 to dis­cuss the draft Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment Strat­e­gy, includ­ing the estab­lish­ment of ALE­DA and the Cap­i­tal Fund. These meet­ings were held with 90% of NLC and CLC del­e­gates who rep­re­sent regions across the main­land NT, along with addi­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty members.

In accor­dance with the State­ment of Strate­gic Intent, the region­al con­sul­ta­tions were to devel­op and dis­cuss the Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples for the strat­e­gy and to set out the process and options for achiev­ing the sus­tain­able eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment of the NT Abo­rig­i­nal estate in accor­dance with the wish­es of Tra­di­tion­al Own­ers. The dis­cus­sions took place in numer­ous com­mu­ni­ties, towns and remote loca­tions across the NT. The exten­sive dis­cus­sions ranged from indi­vid­ual con­sul­ta­tions to large com­mu­ni­ty forums and full land coun­cil del­e­gate meet­ings. In gen­er­al, there was wide­spread sup­port for the strategy.

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