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Northern Land Council Annual Performance Statements 2018/2019

1.0 Introductory Statement

We, Samuel Bush-Blanasi and Marion Scrymgour as the Accountable Authority of the Northern Land Council (NLC), present the 2018/19 Annual Performance Statements of the Northern Land Council, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). In our opinion, these Annual Performance Statements are based on properly maintained records, accurately reflect the performance of the entity, and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

2.0 Entity Purposes, Vision and Guiding Values

The purpose of the NLC is to enable and assist Indigenous people within the NLC region to acquire and manage land and seas and promote economic and community development.

The NLC’s Vision is for a territory in which the rights and responsibilities of every Traditional owner are recognised and in which Aboriginal people benefit economically, socially and culturally from the secure possession of their lands, seas and intellectual property.

Our Guiding values are that we will:

  • Consult with and act with the informed consent of Traditional Owners in accordance with the ALRA
  • Communicate clearly with Aboriginal people, taking into account the linguistic diversity of the region
  • Respect Aboriginal law and tradition
  • Be responsive to Aboriginal peoples’ needs and effectively advocate for their interests   Be open, transparent and accountable
  • Behave in a manner that is appropriate and sensitive to cultural differences
  • Act with integrity, honesty and fairness   Uphold the principles and values of social justice
  • Treat our stakeholders with respect.

Northern Land Council Corporate Plan 2018/19 to 2021/22

3.0 Results

PRIORITY NUMBER

PERFORMANCE CRITERION

CRITERION SOURCE

RESULT AGAINST PERFORMANCE CRITERION

PROSECUTE ALRA AND NTA RESPONSIBILITIES TO ACQUIRE & PROTECT ABORIGINAL PROPERTY RIGHTS.

Priority 1(a)

Through the management of the available capacity, continue the prosecution of Land Rights claims, and the court schedule of Native Title claims.

Corporate Plan pp. 3, 18 & 19

Substantial progress of ALRA intertidal and/or beds and banks land claims was made in the reporting period including:

  participation in contested hearings to resolve five claims;

  providing submissions to the Commissioner’s review of detriment issues relating to 16 land claims previously recommended for grant but not finalised;

  preparation of claim materials for four claims; an

  ongoing negotiations with the Northern Territory and other respondent parties for claims subject to settlement discussions.

All native title claims were completed in accordance with relevant court schedules in the reporting period.

Priority 1(b)

Through the management of available capacity, consult with Traditional Owners and negotiate Land Use Agreements and other commercial agreements.

Corporate Plan – pp. 3, 18 & 19

The completion rate for ALRA Land Use Agreements in the 2018/ 2019 financial year was 63% against the number of land parcels subject to outstanding applications at the start of the reporting period (355). The number of new applications received is increasing year-on-year, with applications received against 281 parcels of land this reporting period. The backlog remains relatively high and the NLC closed the year with outstanding applications over 413 parcels of land.

To achieve the completion rate above, the NLC:

  Convened 346 consultations with 7,242 traditional owners and community members at 147 locations across the NLC area;

  The cost of meetings and travel for consultations during the reporting period was $516,000;

  Prepared more than 120 land use agreements, which were ultimately granted in accordance with ALRA requirements over 158 parcels of land; and

  Conducted consultations and finalised key terms and land use agreements for a further 47 parcels of land (which will be deliberated on and potentially granted in the 2020 financial year).

Priority 1(c

) Provide policy and advocacy for cultural integrity and protection of intellectual and cultural rights.

Corporate Plan – pp. 3, 18 & 19

To improve efficiency and our performance, the Regional Development and Legal Branches have developed:

  standard expression of interest templates;

  standard processes for meeting notifications, scheduling and consultation aids;

  template agreements and agenda papers; and

  a more efficient agreement execution process.

Priority 1(d)

Initiate technological and administrative reforms to NLC systems to enable efficiencies and enhance services for proponents and traditional owners.

Corporate Plan – pp. 26 & 27

The introduction of the LUMAR CRM system will further enhance efficiencies in this space. In particular, the NLC anticipates that the completion rate will increase once our system can more readily discount incomplete applications which cannot be progressed.

Priority 1(e)

Update GIS Mapping capabilities.

Corporate Plan – pp. 26 & 27

The LUMAR update incorporates enhanced GIS and mapping capacity and capability.

LEGAL AND ANTHROPOLOGY BRANCHES – MAINTENANCE OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND CAPACITY.

Priority 2

Resource the Legal and Anthropology Branches (subject to budget) to provide capacity in Human Resources and systems so that the legislative responsibilities can be prosecuted efficiently and in a timely manner.

Corporate Plan pp. 22, 23, 24, 26

Anthropology: All positions were filled for the majority of the reporting period. A number of vacancies arose in the final months of the financial year and a recruitment strategy for these positions has been implemented. Legal: Staffing capacity was maintained during the reporting period and any vacancies were filled within established timeframe.

FACILITATING THE COMMUNITY PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT UNIT SO AS TO PROTECT AND DEVELOP ABORIGINAL USE OF LAND AND SEAS AND STRENGTHEN ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY WELL-BEING.

Priority 3(a)

Further develop the Community Planning and Development Unit to assist and facilitate Traditional Owners’ access to resources in order to economically and socially develop their own groups, and to support Aboriginal Corporations and Associations in their development.

Corporate Plan pp. 14, 19 & 20

During the reporting period the 3rd year incubation of the CP&D Program was completed and we are successfully growing the Unit as a standalone operational arm of the NLC. We received additional funding from the ABA and successfully employed 3 additional staff, bringing CP&D Unit up to 8 staff.

  One additional Aboriginal Group has opted into the CP&D program bringing the total number of groups to 8, with those operating in 4 of NLC’s 7 regions.

  Convened 19 full TO meetings and a further 9 working group meetings to support groups plan and deliver their community projects.

  Groups invested a further $2M into community projects bringing the total value invested by groups up to $6.5M.

  The number of community-led projects has more than doubled from 9 to 24 community-led projects valued about $2.5M in total.

  CP&D monitoring reported annually.

  Delivery of CP&D’s baseline monitoring report 2016- December 18

  Commenced delivery of CP&D’s 3 year (2019-22) funded research project to develop a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system for the Program.

Priority 3(b)

Develop and promote an “economic prospectus” for the region, identifying the demand, capability and opportunities for Traditional Owners to participate in economic development on their lands.

Corporate Plan pp. 14, 19 & 20

MAINTAINING AND CONTINUING TO STRENGTHEN THE CAPACITY AND SKILLS OF NLC-AFFILIATED RANGER GROUPS WORKING ON COUNTRY TO FURTHER PROTECT AND PAINTAIN ABORIGINAL LAND AND SEAS.

Priority 4(a)

Strengthen the capabilities of Ranger Groups through training and capacity building.

Corporate Plan pp. 14. 20 & 21

Caring for Country Branch review was approved by all regional councils and Full Council and the plans are implemented.

Priority 4(b)

Continual improvement of operations of Ranger groups, management activities of IPAs and jointly managed parks.

Corporate Plan pp. 14. 20 & 21

Capabilities of Ranger groups and management of IPAs and managed parks meet best practice. Performance reporting accepted and endorsed as meeting required standard. Completed the development of the Career Pathways Framework, aimed at providing career progression and equal employment opportunities for all Caring for Country employees. Currently in the implementation phase.

DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN A COMPREHENSIVE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM TO FACILITATE THE PROVISION OF INFORMATION AND ADVOCACY OF TRADITIONAL OWNERS INTERESTS.

Priority 5(a)

Develop and implement a communications and public relations plan.

Corporate Plan p. 24

Communications and public relations plan implemented and reviewed as required. NLC Communications Strategy has been finalised in draft form for publication later in 2019.

Priority 5(b)

Organise events, and prepare resources and publications, publish the Land Rights News quarterly; develop a program of media releases and press conferences around issues of the day.

Corporate Plan p. 24

Media Releases are prepared and distributed as required in support of traditional owners’ interests and at the direction of the Executive Council and CEO. Land Rights News published on time. Media releases, speeches and submissions to legislative and policy reform are published and/or submitted consistent with the nLC’s role as a primary advocate for the rights and interests of Aboriginal landowners.

Priority 5(c

Maintain the alliance with Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (APONT).

Corporate Plan p. 24

General and on-going obligations.

Priority 5(d)

Regularly liaise with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority and other institutions.

Corporate Plan p. 24

General and on-going obligations.

Priority 6(a)

Develop, implement, and continually improve policies and procedures that will strengthen the governance and management of the organisation, so that NLC operates in accordance with best practice principles and meets all statutory reporting obligations in order to provide its Aboriginal constituents with responsive, transparent governance and administration.

Corporate Plan pp 24 & 25

16 policies were implemented within the 2018/19 period.

The Project Management Unit (PMU) has agreed a program of work to improve the governance and administration of land use agreements, permits and royalties.

Two Project Boards monitor the progress of reform initiatives and projects:

  Land Use Management and Royalty (LUMAR) Project Board

  Permit Reform (PR) Project Board

The spatial infrastructure project, known as Geospatial Mapping System (GMS) project, provides situational awareness to both projects, and the ability for visualisation and due diligence on land interests.

Each project has a schedule of business system releases over the next 24 months.

A number of mechanisms have been implemented based on the communications strategy to inform staff of the upcoming changes, including staff meetings, workshops, flyers and training sessions. The communication strategy also includes mechanisms to educate external stakeholders about reform initiatives.

Priority 6(b)

Introduce improved processes to manage land use agreements and disbursement arrangements and lift internal capability by tracking activity through one consolidated system

Corporate Plan pp. 13, 14, 22, 23 & 24

The Project Management Unit (PMU) delivered a Future State Design for Royalties in early 2018. This document provides the framework for new policies, systems and procedures that will strengthen the governance and management of land use agreements, royalties and logistics.

The delivery strategy for the Land Use Management and Royalty (LUMAR) project identifies staged releases to provide incremental change, by working branch by branch. LUMAR integrates with the spatial infrastructure project (GMS) and the SAGE Financial Management System to streamline processes.

To date, system releases include:

  Release 1 on 4 March 2019: The new SAGE Trust Accounting Module was implemented in the Royalty Unit and historic interest allocated. The focus is now moving to the Anthropology Branch.

  Release 2 on 27 June 2019: The new Proposal Module was implemented in the Regional Development Branch using SAGE CRM to improve the consideration process for Expression of Interests for ALRA s19 leases and licences. Further releases are planned for management improvements to logistics and cost recovery, royalty revenue and disbursement, contractual compliance and statutory reporting obligations.

More detailed work on policy is required to support consistent processes and procedures and agree a set of leading and lagging indicators to improve workflow.

FACILITATE ARRANGEMENTS TO PROVIDE A MORE RESPONSIVE AND EFFICIENT PERMIT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM TO ORGANISE, MANAGE AND DOCUMENT LICENSED ACCESS TO TRADITIONAL LANDS AND WATERS.

Priority 7(a)

Create a Permit Reform Team to address the aspirations for permit reform from Traditional Owners and other stakeholders who recognise that current conditions and access arrangements constrain safety, tourism and investment, and the effective monitoring, control and deterrence of illegal and dangerous activity by visitors on Aboriginal land and waters.

Corporate Plan pp. 21 & 22

Competed

Priority 7(b)

Facilitate Traditional Aboriginal Owner decisions about who visits their land and the circumstances under which access is permitted

Corporate Plan pp. 21 & 22

Finalised subject to on-going consultations

Priority 7(c)

Design, build and implement a modern Permit Management system

Corporate Plan pp. 21 & 22

In October 2018, work commenced to develop a modern, intuitive, map-based Permit Administration System (PAS).

Permit System

The PAS is composed of three components: the administrative web application and two mobile apps which are not yet funded: Compliance and Visitors apps. The system has dependencies on two other projects – the spatial infrastructure project (GMS) and LUMAR. Finalising the scope for administrative application for a planned Go-Live in October 2019.

Permit Zones

The system is designed to cater for Permit Zones, which specify conditions, fees, open dates, and activities and are adaptable based on Traditional Owner advice. Sea Country consultation have identified standing instructions for permit zones and more consultations will be scheduled once the system is live.

Policy

Subject Matter Experts provided input on the policy draft, which has been submitted to the leadership group and presented at both the 118 and 119 Full Council Meetings (FCMs). An ALRA s19 Permit Agreement and management procedures have been drafted to support the zoning process, including provision for designated activities like fishing.

Stakeholder Engagement

A Media and Education Campaign is planned for next year.

Compliance

The legal branch has received draft legislative changes for land ranger powers under the NT Parks, Wildlife and Conservation Act. Caring for Country has developed a submission to NIAA to fund four compliance projects. If successful, these projects will be the foundation for compliance management and deterrence that is a necessary part of permit reform.

Change

The PAS is more than a ‘like for like’ change to a contemporary system. It introduces changes in the way permits are considered, processed and stored, the information required from applicants, and more extensive reports to inform future decisions. The Reference Group has provided input on the new system and roles.

Priority 7(d)

Develop and promote Permit Reform to connect permit holders with Aboriginal Traditional Owners and help them be safe and informed, understand their obligations and responsibilities as visitors, and participate in mutually beneficial opportunities and experiences while on country.

Corporate Plan pp. 21 & 22

CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVING THE NLC’S POLICIES AND PROCEDURES SYSTEMS FOR MORE EFFICIENCY AND BEST PRACTICE GOVERNANCE AND ADMINISTRATION.

Priority 8(a)

Consultant to complete council and stakeholders’ satisfaction surveys. Further refine Members Handbook (Code of Conduct).

Corporate Plan, pp. 13, 15,16, 24, 25

Consultancy brief drafted and subject to finalisation. This matter for re-consideration/refinement by Executive Council and senior staff. On-going. Revised Members Handbook to be prepared for consideration at first NLC Full Council meeting in mid-2020.

TAKE ACCOUNT OF AND IMPLEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS OF ANAO PERFORMANCE AUDIT: (A) DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN AN ACTION PLAN TO MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF REFORM INITIATIVES AND PROJECTS, AND (B) DEVELOP A COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY TO INFORM STAFF OF CHANGES

Priority 8(b)

Previous year’s Financial Statements are submitted and published on time. Policies and procedures are implemented.

Corporate Plan, pp. 13, 15,16, 24, 25

Financial Statement for 2017/2018 submitted and published on time and ANAO recommendations implemented. Policies and procedures for financial transactions (and generally) are continually reviewed and revised as necessary and implemented. Internal newsletter for intra-staff communications prepared and distributed monthly.

4.0 ANALYSIS

The Northern Land Council continued to implement reforms in 2018/19 to strengthen, improve and increase efficiency through a review and upgrade of systems, policies and processes.

A focus in 2018/19 has been the establishment of a projects team to drive and manage major projects of the organisation. Many reform projects are currently underway, however the two major projects, commenced during the year, include the (i) Permits Reform project and (ii) Land Use Management and Royalties project. Both focus on delivering modern, efficient systems and processes. The 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 marked a significant achievement in term of successfully deploying ICT system that is modernise and flexible to changes and future challenges. This financial year saw the NLC working towards establishing its own datacentre to strengthen risk management and achieve savings.

The Community Planning and Development (CP&D) Unit activities increased over the year with eight Aboriginal groups opting in and working through the CP&D program to use their income for social, cultural, economic and environmental initiatives. The number of community projects planned, funded and being delivered has more than doubled from 9 to 24 community led projects during the 2018/19 period, with four of those initiatives successfully completed.

The Northern Land Council’s purposes, activities and the environment in which it operates did not change significantly in the reporting period to materially impact its performance.

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Signature of Chairman

Samuel Bush-Blanasi

CHAIRMAN

Signature of CEO

Marion Scrymgour

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER