• Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion. (AAP) (Source: AAP)
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion says controversial 99-year lease deals for townships in the Northern Territory are working.
By
Ryan Liddle

Source:
NITV News
18 Nov 2013 - 9:17 PM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2013 - 9:19 PM

But with the policy attracting criticism from local bodies he concedes that some changes are needed.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion says he feels duty bound to support the government's controversial 99-year lease scheme for remote Indigenous communitities across the Northern Territory.

Mr Scullion says first-hand accounts speak for themselves.

"The people who currently enjoy a section 19a township lease tell me that their lives have changed for the better," he told NITV News.

The traditional owners say there's no humbug, there's people in the community that say 'isn't it great to go around the community and go and do business at a place that is owned by my friends and not outsiders'. And for those people that own their own houses they say,' isnt this great, I'm not paying rent, I'm owning my own house'."

The 'whole of township' leases have trickled across parts of the top end, including Yirrkala and Gunbalanya.

Minister Scullion defended claims that these arrangements have forced the communitites to hand over their land.

"This is entirely voluntary, I was actually invted to go to Yirrkala, I was in Gunbalanya discussing other matters and it was brought up, and we had a discussion about these things, this is entirely voluntary.

"People have seen the benefits in Tiwi Islands and in Groote Eyelandt. Sadly over the last government not much was done to advance them. I think people in the communitites need to know whats available to them."

The Northern Land council say there are other considerations which need to be taken into account, Mr Scullion conceeded that some of those changes likely to be adopted in the future.

"You've got to demonstrate to people in the community that they're going to be better off under this than before," Minister Scullion said. "And if they're not, then they shouldn't sign up."

"So thanks to the Land Council we've had a lot of good advice about the sort of intitiatives we might put forward and measures we might put forward in a new contract and they're certainly considering those things in Gunbalanya and Yirrkala."