Township Leases and Economic Development in Northern Territory Aboriginal Communities
(2017) 43(2) Monash University Law Review (Forthcoming)
30 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2017
Date Written: January 01, 2017
The Australian Government has put considerable effort into the uptake of township leases in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, a reform introduced in 2006. It argues that the leases have the potential to transform the economic environment of Aboriginal communities. This article explores the true relationship between township leases and economic development. It draws on empirical research and a set of newly-developed concepts – the leasehold spectrum, an occupier-driven approach, a landowner-driven approach – to explain the particular way in which township leases alter the economic circumstances of communities. Contrary to what is often suggested, for the most part township leases implement a landowner-driven rather than occupier-driven approach. This has consequences not just for how development occurs, but also for who benefits from developments. Until now, those consequences have not been debated in public forums. Similar issues arise in other Indigenous communities around Australia. The article reframes discussion about land reform in Indigenous communities so that these important issues can be given more careful thought.
Keywords: Northern Territory, Aboriginal communities, Township leases, Indigenous communities, Home ownership
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