Crown Lands

Aboriginal land rights and native title

What are Aboriginal land rights and native title?

Aboriginal land rights refer to the system of legal rights created by the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. The Act creates a system of legal rights to compensate Aboriginal communities for the dispossession of their land by allowing for the return of some Crown land to Aboriginal land councils. Aboriginal land councils can receive ownership of Crown land by lodging an Aboriginal land claim or negotiating an Aboriginal Land Agreement with the NSW Government.

Native title is the name Australian law gives to traditional ownership of land and waters that have always belonged to Aboriginal people according to their traditions, laws and customs. The Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993 sets out how native title rights are to be recognised and protected. Traditional owner groups can bring a native title claim in court to have their rights and interests recognised.


Men looking at Aboriginal artwork. Credit: Destination NSW

Aboriginal land councils can lodge Aboriginal land claims for ownership of some Crown land. Crown Lands facilitates the return of land to Aboriginal land councils by assessing land claims and, if a claim is successful, transferring land.

Water flowing down river bank.

Native title is the recognition in Australian law of Aboriginal people’s traditional rights and interests in land and waters. Crown Lands is involved in court consent determinations and other agreement negotiations with traditional owners.

Aerial view of townscape dugout community in outback. Credit: Destination NSW

Aboriginal groups can achieve ownership or rights in land by negotiating agreements with the NSW Government, including Aboriginal Land Agreements and more.