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The Northern Land Council (NLC) is a land council representing the Aboriginal peoples of the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia, with its head office in Darwin.

While the NLC was established in 1974, its origins began in the struggle of Australian Aboriginal people for rights to fair wages and land, including the strike and walk off by the Gurindji people at Wave Hill cattle station in 1966, as well as other activities relating to Indigenous land rights.


The Commonwealth Government of Gough Whitlam set up the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, a Royal Commission, in February 1973 to inquire into how land rights might be achieved in the Northern Territory. Justice Woodward's first report in July 1973 recommended that a Northern Land Council and a Central Land Council be established in order to present to him the views of Aboriginal people.[citation needed]

In response to the report of the Royal Commission a Land Rights Bill was drafted, but the Whitlam government was dismissed before it was passed. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was eventually passed by the Fraser Government on 16 December 1976 and began operation on Australia Day, that is 26 January 1977.[citation needed]

This Act established the basis upon which Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory could, for the first time, claim rights to land based on traditional occupation. In effect it allowed title to be transferred of most of the Aboriginal reserve lands and the opportunity to claim other land not owned, leased or being used by someone else.[citation needed]

The Northern Land Council was established in 1974.[1]

Kathy Mills was the first woman to be elected to the Northern Land Council.[2]


The most important responsibility of the councils is to consult traditional owners and other Aboriginal people who have an interest in Aboriginal land about land use, land management and access by external tourism, mining and other businesses. This sometimes involves facilitating group negotiation and consensus-building among scores of traditional Aboriginal landowner groups, and many other affected Aboriginal people.[citation needed]

Many Aboriginal people in the Northern Land Council's area live in the major towns. As of 2012 there were about 200 communities scattered over Aboriginal land in the NLC's area, ranging in size from small family groups on outstations to settlements of up to 3,000 people.[3]


The Northern Land Council is a representative body with statutory authority under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. It also has responsibilities under the Native Title Act 1993.[4]

It is one of four in the Northern Territory. and the largest; the others are:[4]

The Full Council is the major decision-making body, as of 2021 consisting of 78 elected members and five co-opted women, making 83 members in total. There is also an Executive Council and Regional Councils.[5]

The NLC’s jurisdiction covers seven regions: Darwin/ Daly/ Wagait; West Arnhem; East Arnhem; Katherine; Victoria River District (VRD); Ngukurr; and Borroloola/ Barkly.[5]


The head office is located in Darwin.[6]

The NLC's Top End zone is divided into seven regions with regional offices. The head office and Royalties Office are in the city of Darwin.[6]

Regional offices representing the seven districts are in:[6]



As of October 2022:


Land Rights News

Land Rights News is the longest-running Aboriginal newspaper.[13]

In April 1976, the Central Land Council published the first edition of Central Australian Land Rights News, which ran until August 1984. In July 1976, the NLC launched Land Rights News: A Newsletter for Aboriginals and Their Friends. A major goal of these newspapers was not only to provide information to Aboriginal people on land rights issues, but also to correct misinformation, provide in-depth coverage of native title issues, and to challenge the stereotypes represented in mainstream newspapers in Australia, and to encourage its readers to take action.[14]

In September 1985 the two land councils pooled their resources to start producing Land Rights News: One Mob, One Voice, One Land (LRN).[14] In 1988, the newspaper won a UNAA Media Peace Award. At that time, the paper was under the editorship of NLC director John Ah Kit and CLC director Pat Dodson.[15] In 1989, it won a print media award.[14]

In 2002, Aboriginal journalist Todd Condie left the Koori Mail after ten years, to work on Land Rights News.[14]

From 2011[16][17] and as of October 2022, Land Rights News is published three times a year in two editions: "Central Australia"[13] and "Northern Edition",[18] and remains the longest-running Aboriginal newspaper. It is also the only printed newspaper published in Central Australia.[13]


  1. ^ "Our history". Northern Land Council. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Aboriginal elder Kathy Mills National Reconciliation Week". Engaging Women. 27 May 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  3. ^ "About the Northern Land Council". Northern Land Council. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b Audit Report - Northern Territory Land Councils and the Aboriginals Benefit Account. Audit Report No.28. Australian National Audit Office. 7 February 2003. ISBN 0-642-80684-5. ISSN 1036-7632. Archived from the original on 17 July 2005. Retrieved 3 October 2022. PDF
  5. ^ a b c "Our Council". Northern Land Council. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Contact". Northern Land Council. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  7. ^ "NLC Chair". Northern Land Council. 2022. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  8. ^ "NLC Chief Executive Officer". Northern Land Council. 16 July 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  9. ^ "NT deputy Scrymgour makes history". The Age. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  10. ^ "NLC Chief Executive Officer". Northern Land Council. 13 March 2018. Archived from the original on 23 July 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ Masters, Emma (21 April 2021). "Former Northern Land Council leader remembered as lifelong Indigenous rights activist". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  12. ^ Hersh, Philip (22 September 2000). "Across generations". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  13. ^ a b c "Land Rights News". Central Land Council. 19 May 2021. Archived from the original on 3 October 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d Burrows, Elizabeth Anne (2010). Writing to be heard: the Indigenous print media's role in establishing and developing an Indigenous public sphere (PhD). Griffith University. pp. 161, 184, 229, 239, 254, 285, 321. doi:10.25904/1912/3292. Retrieved 1 October 2022. PDF
  15. ^ "UN Media Peace Awards". Tribune. No. 2531. New South Wales. 7 September 1988. p. 12. Retrieved 3 October 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "Land Rights News Central Australia" (catalogue entry), Trove, Central Land Council for the three Northern Territory Land Councils, ISSN 1325-0140
  17. ^ Central Land Council (Australia); Northern Territory Land Councils (Australia), "Land Rights News" (catalogue entry), Trove, Central Land Council for the three Northern Territory Land Councils, ISSN 1325-0140
  18. ^ "All documents". Northern Land Council. 1 August 2022. Archived from the original on 3 October 2022. Retrieved 3 October 2022.