In 1976 the Commonwealth Government passed the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act (ALRA), which remains the most potent piece of land rights legislation in Australia, providing successful claimants with a form of tenure called Aboriginal Freehold.
The land held under Aboriginal Freehold forms an Aboriginal Land Trust, which is both inalienable and held in common by the claimants and their descendents, who are known as Traditional Owners (TOs). Although there was a sunset clause in the Act that means no new land can now be claimed under this legislation, half of the NT is now Aboriginal land, most of which was claimed in this way.
The land trusts are also home to almost 80% of the NT Aboriginal population, but they often lack the basic infrastructure (bore fields, power lines or sealed roads) to support economic development. Because Aboriginal Freehold is inalienable, the land trusts cannot be divided up, sold or mortgaged to raise funds for this necessary improvement. This means that chosing to live on your own land often means subsisting on welfare, further constraining people's ability to gain benefit from their assets.
Centrefarm was established by TOs in Central Australia to address this. Using Section 19 of the ALRA, which allows for specific parcels within a land trust to be excised out under a lease to an Aboriginal person or legal entity, Centrefarm works alongside the relevant Land Council towards gaining the required Ministerial sign-off on the proposed lease arrangements. The company then seeks funding to establish the necessary infrastructure, begins to address government regulations pertaining to land development, and commences negotiations with industry for the planned enterprises.
This is Centrefarm's unique capacity, bringing together all the elements required to create new regional economies from the basic elements of land, water and people across Aboriginal lands in the NT.