Northern Land Council

The Northern Land Council (NLC) is in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia, with its head office in Darwin. It has its origins in the struggle of Australian Aboriginal people for rights to fair wages and land. This included 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. It was established in 1974.


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.

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.

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.

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



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.

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.[2]


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 (so the Native Title Tribunal) and the Pastoral Land Act 1992.

It is one of four in the Northern Territory; the others are:

The Full Council is the major decision-making body, consisting of 78 elected members and five co-opted women, making 83 members in total. There is also an Executive Council and Regional Councils.[3]

The NLC’s jurisdiction covers seven regions: Darwin/ Daly/ Wagait; West Arnhem; East Arnhem; Katherine; Victoria River District (VRD); Ngukurr; and Borroloola/ Barkly.[3]


  • As of April 2021 NLC Chair is Samuel Bush-Blanasi, who has served seven terms on the council, three of those as chairman.[4]
  • John Bugy Bugy Christophersen (c.1951–2021), who represented the Kakadu area within the West Arnhem region[3] and was previously a longtime activist for Indigenous rights, died in April 2021, aged 69. He had been an organiser of the convoy that went to Sydney to join the 40,000-strong protest at the 1988 Bicentenary of Australia, and became the vice-president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in 1990. Offices closed as a mark of respect at his passing.[7] He was also the biological father of athlete and politician Nova Peris, although she had no contact with him between the ages of 2 and 16.[8]


The head office is located in Darwin.[9]

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.[9]

Regional offices representing the seven districts are in:[9]


  1. ^ "Our history". Northern Land Council. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  2. ^ "About the Northern Land Council". Northern Land Council. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Our Council". Northern Land Council. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  4. ^ "NLC Chair". Northern Land Council. 31 March 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  5. ^ "NLC Chief Executive Officer". Northern Land Council. 6 August 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  6. ^ "NT deputy Scrymgour makes history". The Age. 26 November 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Hersh, Philip (22 September 2000). "Across generations". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  9. ^ a b c "Contact". Northern Land Council. Retrieved 21 April 2021.

External linksEdit