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Strategic Thinking

The enabling legislation of the NLC is the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The responsible ministers for the 2018/19 reporting period were Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion (to 29 May 2019) and thereafter the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, the Minister for Indigenous Australians.

The Minister gave no directions to the NLC during the reporting year.

The NLC’s strategic direction takes into account the changing social, political, cultural, economic and environmental landscape of our region, and the opportunities it presents. Our planning framework incorporates:

  • Corporate Plan – a four-year plan of our high-level initiatives to achieve our strategic goals and objectives
  • Strategic Plan – a four-year overview of our vision, goals, values and objectives
  • Business Plans – annual plans that outline activities and actions in each branch of the NLC that will deliver our goals and objectives.

These plans are reviewed annually and may be amended as required to reflect changing strategic priorities.

The planning framework enables the Chief Executive Officer, Leadership Group, Full Council Members and the Executive and Regional Councils and staff to be regularly informed on progress and performance to achieve our strategic goals and objectives and, where necessary, take corrective action to ensure initiatives are on track.

Corporate Plan 2019–2022

The Corporate Plan 2019–2022 presents the NLC’s goals and objectives for the next four years, based on the organisation’s legislative responsibilities (under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the Native Title Act 1993), and our identified Vision (see page iii).

Our goals and objectives are translated into actions across the internal operational areas within the NLC, along with details on how these activities will be delivered and measured.

The seven goals espoused in the Corporate Plan are:

  1. Advocate, protect and acquire Aboriginal property rights and interests in our traditional lands, waters and seas through land claims and native title claims.
  2. Ensure the sustainable use and management of natural and cultural resources on Aboriginal lands.
  3. Protect Aboriginal sacred sites, and places and objects of significant cultural heritage.
  4. Support Aboriginal people to maintain sustainable communities, outstations and healthy lives.
  5. Facilitate economic opportunities that lead to viable and sustainable regional commercial activities and development.
  6. Advocate on behalf of Aboriginal people to raise broader community awareness of the role and vision of the NLC.
  7. Operate in accordance with best practice and reporting standards and obligations.

The plan is the vehicle to achieve our corporate mission: to have an experienced and capable organisation that effectively serves Aboriginal peoples’ interests in the Northern Territory’s land, waters and seas – one that is focused and committed to achieving our strategic objectives over the next four years.

The NLC’s focus during this four-year period is to improve governance support to the council, support the council in policy development, and increase community engagement and the delivery of accessible and efficient services to Aboriginal people of the Territory.

Strategic Plan 2016–2020

This four-year Strategic Plan covers the period 2016–2020 and is informed by legislative responsibilities, strategic directions, and views expressed by the Full Council membership and the NLC administration about our goals and strategies.

The objectives of this four-year Strategic Plan are:

  • To serve as a document that sets out medium-term, high-level, strategic directions for the Full Council, Executive Council and Regional Councils and the Chief Executive Officer.
  • To establish a platform for the Chief Executive Officer, in conjunction with the Leadership Group and staff, to set, monitor and review annual priorities and actions outlined in the Corporate Plan alongside detailed business plans for each operational area.
  • To provide a communication tool to inform governments, stakeholders and the general public on the strategic direction of the NLC over the next four years and recognition of achievements.

The NLC is fully committed to the successful delivery of strategic objectives that will see Aboriginal people benefit economically, socially and culturally from the secure possession of our land, waters and seas in the Top End of the Northern Territory.

The Strategic Plan provides high-level direction and is complemented by more detailed planning documents, specifically the Corporate Plan and Business Plans for each operational area of the NLC.

Exemptions Granted By Finance Minister

No exemptions were granted by the Finance Minister in regard to reporting requirements in 2018/19.

Insurance Premiums For Officers

No indemnity against liability has been given by agreement or other means to a current or former member of staff. Comcover provides general liability and professional indemnity insurance for NLC directors and officers, and legal practitioners are covered by compulsory professional indemnity as required by the Northern Territory Law Society.

Risk Management and Ethics

NLC members are responsible for setting the policy and oversight of the risk management framework that integrates the process for managing risk into the organisation’s governance, strategic planning, management, reporting processes, policies, and organisational culture to comply with the Australian/New Zealand Risk Management Standard (AS/ANZ ISO 31000:2009).

The Leadership Group, including the Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for ensuring that management systems, processes and controls are in place to minimise risks and impacts to the organisation’s strategic objectives and desired operational outcomes. In 2018/19, the NLC established and implemented an appropriate system of risk oversight and management, including a risk management plan, risk framework, risk policy and risk register.

The Audit Committee is responsible for monitoring financial risk, compliance and financial performance in conjunction with the Leadership Group. The risk management framework is an evolving document and has been updated along with the 2016–2020 Strategic Plan.

The Audit Committee Charter sets out the role and purpose of the Audit Committee, which also acts as an advisory body on operational and financial management controls and reporting responsibilities, oversees internal and external audit functions, and provides independent and objective assurance that the NLC’s systems, processes and risk management strategies are robust and comply with acceptable standards and government requirements.

During 2018/19, the Audit Committee was independently chaired by Jon Webster, and attended by two independent members and two council members.

The Chief Financial Officer attends Audit Committee meetings, but is not a member of the committee.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and HLB Mann Judd on behalf of the ANAO have a standing invitation to attend all Audit Committee meetings.

The NLC’s Code of Conduct Policy and Council Members Handbook outline ethical behaviour standards at both personal and professional levels expected within the workplace. The NLC workplaces include an office environment and/or remote field environments.

Each staff member is made aware of and has access to the Staff Code of Conduct on commencement, via the intranet and during reviews. Similarly, council members receive an induction and copy of the Members’ Handbook, as well as a clear understanding of appropriate and acceptable behaviour.

Related Entity Transactions

Related Entity Transactions can be found at note 14 of the Financial Statements on page 247.

The NLC has developed a system of delegated powers that enables decisions to be made on a range of transactions at the appropriate organisational level. The NLC’s Full, Executive and Regional Councils are all required to comply with internal and externally-mandated decision-making processes for managing related party transactions and broader conflicts of interest for NLC members, particularly NLC Executive Council members, to which delegations for a range of purposes have been made by the NLC Full Council. The NLC’s Conflict of Interest Policy (NLC 006) establishes an organization-wide policy on the management of conflicts of interests and sets out the decision-making processes for NLC staff and Council members. Further, the NLC’s Code of Conduct (FRM-HR-015) sets out comprehensive rules for the management of a range of responsibilities and obligations for staff and Council members. Note 14 to the financial statements sets out the NLC’s related party disclosures for 2018–19.

Freedom of Information

The NLC is exempt from reporting under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Information Communication and Technology

Information Technology and communications is committed to achieving savings and efficiency through installation of modern hardware, delivering secure, flexible and reliable systems and solutions to staff and customers. 2018/19 saw significant achievements in term of deploying a modern ICT system that is modern and flexible.

This financial year saw the NLC working towards establishing its own datacentre to strengthen risk management and achieve savings.

Fleet and Property Management

The NLC maintains a fleet of 126 vehicles , including four-wheel drives, sedans, trailers and buses to suit NT remote conditions. The ranger program requires specialised vehicles and trailers, such as ATVs, and surveyed boats. The entire fleet is licensed and maintained to roadworthy and safe standards.

The fleet is funded from several sources, including ABA, native title or grant funding.

All 4WD fleet vehicles are accessory fitted out to operate in harsh NT environments. A comprehensive review of the motor vehicle fleet has been undertaken; the outcomes of the review will be known in 2019/20 to secure funding for new vehicles to replace end of operational vehicles.

The NLC also continuously manages and maintains to required standards various properties – offices, ranger bases and residential properties – throughout the NLC regions.

Consultants Expenditure

During the reporting period, the NLC engaged consultants to do work in relation to the council’s functions and exercise of powers under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, as required under s.37(8) and under Native Title Act 1993.



Aboriginal Resource & Development Services Aboriginal Cor.


Anthropos Consulting


Ashurst Australia


Australian National University


C-AID Consultants


Camatta Lempens Pty Ltd Lawyers


Cardno (NT) pty ltd




Charles Darwin University


Chris Brown Consultancy


Conservation Management Pty Ltd


Continuum Analytics Pty Ltd.


Cooke, Peter M


Culture & Heritage


David S Trigger and Associates


Department of Infrastructure Planning & Logistices


Department of The Chief Minister


Environmental And Cultural Services


Gareth David James Lewis


GHD Pty Ltd


Gilbert + Tobin


Glacken, Stuart (A J Dever Pty Ltd)


Jitendra Kumarage


K & L Gates


Kim Barber


KPMG Darwin


Latitude 12


List G Barristers


Maria Siskamanis - Lawyer


Melanie Dulfer-Hyams Consulting


Mick Reynolds


Midena Lawyers


Mr Peter Willis


MRAG Asia Pacific Pty Ltd


Oliver Berst - Ganesha IT Consulting


OTS Management Pty Ltd


Robert Blowes


Robwel Pty Ltd t/a Robert Welfare Barristers and Solicitors


Ron levy


Susan Jane O'Sullivan


Terry Mahney


The University of Western Australia


Tom Keely/Howell's List Barristers Pty Ltd


Walter Zukowski


Western Sydney University



Environmental Performance

The principles of ecologically sustainable development are considered in the objectives of the NLC’s Corporate and Strategic Plans and are addressed throughout consultations and negotiations of land use proposals. In particular, the economic, environmental cultural and political impacts are considered during all decision-making processes. This includes the precautionary principle and monitoring and compliance of environmental impacts on natural and cultural resources of exploration and mining.




Management – Joe Morrison, Joe Valenti, Kathryn Laferla;

CPSU and Staff – Tamara Cole, Kirsty Kassman; Shannon O’Connell, Pam Wickham and CPSU representative; Chamber of Commerce (NT).


The NLC has an Audit Committee in compliance with section 45 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and PGPA Rule section 17 Audit Committee for Commonwealth Entities. The Audit Committee assists the council in respect of financial reporting, performance reporting, risk oversight and management, internal control and compliance with relevant laws and policies.




Jon Webster (independent chair)



Angela Shima (non-executive member)



Aswin Kumar (non-executive member)



Linda Fletcher (NLC member



Wayne Wauchope (NLC member)




Following from Australian National Audit Office recommendations, the NLC established a Remuneration Committee in 2017. The committee is responsible for ensuring pay and allowances under the Enterprise Agreement are correct and meet the minima as set in the Australian Local Government Industry Award 2016. The committee also sets common law contract remuneration levels.

Remuneration Committee membership: Kathryn Laferla, Joe Valenti, Chenoa Ellison.


The WHS committee has nine members, including the WHS co-ordinator and WHS officer, who were seconded to the committee. The committee is active and meets regularly.

The role and responsibilities of the committee are articulated in the Work Health Safety Act 2011 and procedures required under statutory obligations. The committee has provided timely advice to the CEO on WHS matters and is focused on improving the safety standards for all NLC employees to ensure a safe workplace and to be compliant under the legislation.

Work Health and Safety Committee members: Joe Valenti (chair) Kathryn Laferla, Greg McDonald, Jeffrey Yoelu, Andrew Thomas, Ian Amy, Hidayat Nurslanis, Don Couzens, Kylie Burn, Tamara Cole


The NLC’s media unit is part of the Executive Branch and has helped to represent the organisation at various events, including the Garma and Barunga festivals and the annual NAIDOC march.

The unit continually refreshes and upgrades the NLC’s website, which has a fresher look, is easier to navigate and is more informative.

Following the resignation of the unit manager in December 2018 that position was filled in March 2019. The concerted push by the NLC into social media has been maintained. The NLC boasts a lively Facebook, Instagram and Twitter presence, which has much enhanced the organisation’s profile.

Information Resources

The NLC produces a range of information and educational resources, and also publishes Land Rights News – Northern Edition.

Land Rights News, first published in 1977, is Australia’s longest-running Aboriginal newspaper, and is distributed free to subscribers and Aboriginal communities and organisations across Australia.

Annual Report

The media unit is also responsible for preparing the NLC’s annual report.

News Media Assistance

The media unit receives and responds to a large number of enquiries from local, national and international news media, often on subjects beyond the NLC’s core business.

The unit also oversees the issue of permits for news media to enter Aboriginal lands. Permission to film landscapes and interview Aboriginal community members is considered by Traditional Owners and, where these engagements are commercial in nature, a special agreement is negotiated. Over the past year, no permit application has been refused.

Advertising and Market Research

The NLC advertised during normal recruitment campaigns and placed public notices relating to waiver of permits in the intertidal zone and to access to lands within the Kenbi Land Trust. No market research, polling or direct mail activities were undertaken.

Distribution of Royalties

The NLC manages the receipt and disbursement of royalty monies to Aboriginal people.

The NLC maintains a royalty trust account that receives monies on behalf of individuals and associations of Aboriginal people and disperses them in accordance with section 35(2) (3) (4) of the ALRA to Traditional Owners and royalty receiving associations.

Taking instructions and the distribution of royalties and payments is an intensive process. The primary responsibility for the co-ordination of meetings of Aboriginal landowners to determine distributions lies with regional office staff and anthropologists. The NLC also assists groups to resolve disputes over distributions.


Under the ALRA, income of $62,172,000 was generated from Aboriginal land during 2018/19.

Distributions have been made as per instructions from Traditional Owners in accordance with traditional decisionmaking processes. 7709 royalty payments were made during the course of the financial year, totalling $60,469,000.

Administering Aboriginal Land Trusts

The NLC assists Aboriginal land trusts to act in accordance with the ALRA. Land trusts are statutory bodies corporate that hold title to Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act for the benefit of the Aboriginal people concerned, including Traditional Owners and Aboriginal persons who are entitled by tradition to use or occupy the land, whether or not that entitlement is qualified by place, time, circumstance, purpose or permission.

Where land is granted in a deed of grant held in escrow by a land council, a land trust may acquire the estates and interests of other persons with a view of gaining the delivery of the title to the land trust. A land trust cannot exercise its functions in relation to land except in accordance with a direction given by the NLC.

Land trusts usually comprise a chairman and not fewer than three members who hold office for periods not exceeding five years. Land trust members are usually Traditional Owners of the land held in trust.

The NLC assists land trusts in a number of ways, including the secure storage of deeds of grant and common seals, administering and negotiating leases, receiving and distributing monies such as rents and royalty payments and the resolution and management of disputes.

Mediation and Dispute Resolution

The NLC supports Traditional Owners and attempts to conciliate disputes.

With its abundant natural resources, the Top End of the Northern Territory has always supported a large Traditional Owner population.

Demand for coastal land and sea access, farming development, mineral and petroleum resources, large township development and water resource exploitation all confront the Traditional Owner population.

The social, economic and cultural gap can cause tension within and between groups. In addition, issues arise with regard to traditional ownership. There may be boundary disputes between groups, or intra-group disputes regarding membership, or both. The NLC’s functions include (under s25 of the ALRA) a duty to “attempt the conciliation of disputes”.

Where a land council is informed that there is, or there may arise, a dispute with respect to land in the area of the council between persons to whom this section applies, the land council shall use its best endeavours by way of conciliation for the settlement or prevention, of the dispute. The NLC also has statutory responsibility for the identification of the traditional owners of Aboriginal land.