- Conservation Lands

To: "Birding-aus (E-mail)" <>
Subject: - Conservation Lands
From: "Hal Wootten" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2000 11:55:00 +1000
Thanks to those who have commented on my message, particularly Andrew Taylor
who filled in some recollection of the press report about Roebuck Plains.  I
haven't been able to verify the details but like Simon Mustoe I do not find
what he says problematic nor is it inconsistent with anything I wrote.

Part of the background is an ongoing dispute amongst interested Aborigines
as to where the Indigenous Land Fund should concentrate its purchases.  One
view is that it should concentrate in the north, where white settlement has
been less intense and Aboriginal communities have been able to maintain
greater ties with traditional land.  The other view is that it should be
spent in the south where dispossession has been greatest, even though
traditional ties have as a result been more attenuated.  Until recently the
ILC board tended to favour the former view, but recent Ministerial
appointments have altered the balance on the Board.  The new Board appears
to have been critical of the large expenditure on a northern property by the
old Board near the end of its term.

Another factor (relevant to local objection) is that it is sometimes
difficult, as a result of all the disturbance and displacement over the last
200 years, to get agreement on who are the traditional owners entitled to
speak for particular country.  Even then, the traditional owners may not be
of one mind as to what they want done - like whites they vary in the
relative importance they attach to development and conservation.

My apologies to those who wanted more references - I guess I have been so
steeped in these issues over the last 30 years, from conservationist,
indigenous and quasi-judicial perspectives, that I take much for granted.
Within the week before I wrote the e-mail I had been discussing related
issues in Alice Springs and Darwin with officers of the Northern and Central
Land Councils, the CSIRO, and Parks and Wildlife, in the course of
researching a chapter I am contributing to a book on current conservation

Both the Northern Land Council and the Indigenous Land Corporation are
statutory bodies constituted under Commonwealth Acts,  respectively the
Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 and the Land Fund and Indigenous Land
Corporation (ATSIC Amendment) Act 1995 .  These Acts can be downloaded from and
respectively.  Information about the policies and activities of the two
bodies can be found at and respectively.

Most of what I wrote can be sourced back to these references although
personal experience and accumulated but unindexed knowledge is also
involved.  To give more detail would expose me to even more complaint about
'long' messages, but I am willing to respond to any particular queries.  I
have already responded to some direct inquiries.

I am not suggesting that the Northern Land Council or the ILC are flawless
organizations. They are human organizations operating in a highly emotive
and political area, and have the normal problems.  But they are tightly
constrained by the terms of their legislation and various degrees of
administrative and ministerial supervision.  If they stray far out of line,
they are likely to end up in court or to be swooped on by a hostile
Commonwealth or Territory Minister.  Like white politicians/administrators,
they have to cope with conflicting views among their constituents and can't
please everybody.

The Northern Territory Government for political ends continually seeks to
vilify the Land Councils and I guess I react to loose or inaccurate
statements that tend to feed the prejudices it seeks to raise.  By all means
debate their policies, but first get the facts right, and make sure you have
the right target. In his second message Michael Hunter is still spraying
"the land councils", despite the absence of evidence that any Land Council
is involved, and the certainty that the one he originally mentioned (the
Northern Land Council) could not be involved. The fact that one's "concern
is for the birds" does not release one from the need to be accurate and fair
and give verifiable references for contentious statements.  If anyone can
give me the reference to what he describes as "a recent article in Ecos (I
think)"., I would be grateful.  I have not been able to locate it in the
Ecos index on the CSIRO website.

Having got the facts, let us recognise that for historical and cultural
reasons Aborigines may have legitimate objectives different to ours, and
look for win-win solutions that respect their objectives rather than simply
dismissing or overriding them.  For the most part they are far more
environmentally sensitive and sympathetic than many non-indigenous
landowners.  Certainly they (and the Land Councils) are continually
criticised by governments and private white interests for not being more
development oriented.

Hal Wootten
PO Box 255 Glebe 2037
Phone 02 9692 9354
Fax     02 9660 1503
E-mail  <>

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