On 8 May 2012, the Australian Government announced its decision to effect native title institutional reform as part of the 2012-13 Budget. The reforms involve both the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) and the Federal Court.
From 1 July 2012, the Federal Court will be responsible for the mediation of native title claims and claims-related Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs). All of the NNTT’s other statutory functions will remain with the NNTT.
The Attorney-General the Hon Nicola Roxon has stated that the ‘reform refocuses the resources of the Tribunal on its areas of strength, enabling greater focus on crucial functions relating to future land uses affecting native title’.
The NNTT’s 2012-13 Portfolio Budget Statement provides that funding for the NNTT will comprise a sub-program within the Federal Court’s appropriation. The indicative funding for the NNTT to undertake its functions in 2012–13 is $12.721m.
The institutional changes predominately affect the NNTT’s mediation of native title claims. It is expected that most matters currently being mediated in the NNTT will cease to be so mediated as of 1 July 2012. However some matters (e.g. those that are close to resolution) may remain with the NNTT for mediation and ILUA assistance until finalised (i.e. after 1 July 2012). It should be noted that, in any event, matters will remain in mediation with the NNTT until the Federal Court orders/directs otherwise.
The institutional reforms are intended to strengthen the NNTT’s focus on its future act functions. Accordingly, the NNTT will continue to undertake all its current future act mediation and arbitral functions, ensuring that there is no diminution of service standards or quality.
In addition, the Tribunal will continue to carry out its claims and registration functions unchanged. It will also continue to:
- notify native title applications and ILUAs;
- maintain the Register of Native Title Claims;
- maintain the National Native Title Register;
- maintain the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements;
- facilitate ILUA negotiations not related to native title claims mediation;
- provide statutory assistance functions, and
- have the power to conduct review/inquiry functions about native title functions.
The institutional reforms are focussed on improving the efficiency of the native title system and the NNTT will prioritise the continued delivery of high quality services to our clients and stakeholders, consistent with the requirements of the Native Title Act and the NNTT’s Strategic Plan 2011-14.
For further information contact President Graeme Neate at President@nntt.gov.au or 07 3307 5025, Registrar Stephanie Fryer-Smith at Registrar@nntt.gov.au or 08 9425 1081 or Ms Tiffany Karlson, A/g Assistant Secretary, Native Title Unit – Special Projects, Attorney-General’s Department at Tiffany.Karlsson@ag.gov.au or 02 6141 4730.