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Decades-long claims backlog highlights NSW native title failure

Giovanni Torre -

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has condemned successive state governments for their failure to deliver on land rights amid a two-decade claims backlog.

The comments came after the Auditor-General for NSW last week released the Performance Audit report on Aboriginal land claim processes, which highlighted myriad issues including a finding it would take 22 years to process the more than 38,000 unresolved land claims in the state.

The report assessed whether agencies were effectively facilitating and administering Aboriginal land claims. The agencies include the Department of Planning and Environment; the Department of Premier and Cabinet; and the NSWALC.

NSWALC chairperson Danny Chapman said successive NSW governments had failed to deliver on the beneficial nature of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

"The ALRA was designed to provide some compensation for the ongoing effects of Aboriginal dispossession, but governments' lack of strategy, planning and true partnerships sees us in this place," he said.

"The report's findings reinforce long-standing concerns that NSWALC and the land rights network have consistently raised over more than a decade."

The report found the Department of Planning and Environment failed to meet its obligation to determine land claims within a reasonable time, and a lack of accountability in the DPE and the Department of Premier and Cabinet to improve Aboriginal land claim processes.

Mr Chapman said the government must urgently address the issues identified in the report.

"The NSW Government must implement transformative measures to effect real change, accelerate the return of lands to LALCs, and actively support the activation of lands," he said.

"These measures must be designed and delivered in partnership with NSWALC and Aboriginal Land Councils, in line with Closing the Gap commitments."

The NSWALC also called for more ambitious targets for determining claims and returning land to Aboriginal land councils.

New South Wales Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Franklin said he supported recommendations in the report.

"Work has already started regarding several of the recommendations put forward," he said.

Recommendations included implementing a 10-year plan to increase claims processing, improving information sharing with land councils and boosting education.

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