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30 June 2023


2004 Amendment Act: Aboriginal Lands (Amendment) Act 2004 (Vic)
ALA:Aboriginal Lands Act 1970 (Vic)
AGM:Annual General Meeting
Auditor:A person appointed and authorised to inspect the accounts and records of an organisation and check the organisation is complying with the rules that govern it.
CATSI Act:Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth)
Charter:Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (Vic)
CEO:Chief Executive Officer
Committee of Management:The governing body of the Trust, responsible for managing the Trust and the Trust Land, and elected by Members.
Corporation:an entity with “legal personality” which means it can act as a person by entering into contracts, buying and selling land etc.
Discussion Paper:Paper published in 2017 by First Peoples State Relations for a further review of the ALA.
Dividends:A payment made by a company or organisation to its shareholders to distribute profits.
Executor:The executor of a Will is responsible for carrying out the wishes of a person after they die.
First Peoples State Relations:First Peoples – State Relations, Department of Premier and Cabinet. Formerly Aboriginal Victoria.
Framlingham ALT Submission:Framlingham Aboriginal Land Trust Submission
Freehold title:To hold a freehold title over land is to have full and free control and ownership of it into the future.
GLaWAC:Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation
Governance:When referring to companies and organisations, governance relates to the set of systems, practices, rules and processes the organisation operates under.
Government:Victorian Government
LTAT Submission:
Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust Submission
The people who own a share in the Trust. The original Members were people who were living on the Trust Land on a certain day specified in the ALA. Members may have passed on their shares, for example to relatives, who then become Members.
The Minister responsible for administering the ALA, currently being the Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council
Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.
ORIC or CATSI Corporation:
A corporation established under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) and regulated by ORIC. This structure is similar to a company limited by guarantee and strives to take into account Aboriginal customs and traditions. This structure is only available for organisations that meet an Indigeneity requirement.
poll vote:
Where each member at a general meeting has one vote. However, if there is a request by 5 members who are present at the meeting or by 10% of the total number of members present at the meeting, the number of votes that each individual may cast is determined according to how many shares that person owns.
The minimum number of members needed at a meeting for the proceedings and decisions made to be valid.
Jason Behrendt and Tim Goodwin
Another term for Members.
The body corporate established by the ALA which owns the Trust Land. It comprises the Members of the Trust but is a separate legal entity from the Members of the Trust.
Trusts:The Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust and Framlingham Aboriginal Trust
Trust Land:The land owned by each of the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust and the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust under the ALA.

Background to review and overview of Act

The Aboriginal Lands Act 1970 (Vic) (ALA) was passed in 1970 to provide for a scheme of land ownership for the residents of the Aboriginal reserves at Lake Tyers and Framlingham. It is typical for legislation to be regularly reviewed, so that they can be continuously improved and problems can be fixed. The ALA was reviewed in 2002 and 2012. Both reviews led to minor changes being made to the ALA.

In 2017, the Victorian Government published a Discussion Paper outlining the Government’s intention to undertake a major review of the ALA to:

  • improve governance
  • facilitate economic development and
  • enable greater self-determination for the communities at Framlingham and Lake Tyers.

Jason Behrendt and Tim Goodwin were appointed as independent reviewers. They consulted with the Lake Tyers and Framlingham communities in 2018, and wrote an Options Paper setting out some different options for improving the ALA.

The Options Paper provided options to stakeholders to discuss under the following headings:

  • No change: No amendment of the ALA and maintain the status quo.
  • Minor change: Improve the administration of the ALA by reference to 6 key issues identified during the course of the Stage 1 Consultations (share system, governance, external regulation, dispute resolution, engagement with residents, and sale of Trust land and other economic activity.
  • Major change: fundamental reform of the ALA, including by replacing the share system and/or the corporate model of the Trusts.

The independent reviewers have considered the responses to the Options Paper and have produced a final report for the review (the Report). The reviewers have made 42 recommendations that fall within the category of Minor Change. These recommendations are aimed at improving the operation of the ALA. No clear consensus emerged that Major Change was necessary. The Report has recommended an ongoing process of review for the legislation so that the option of broader and more fundamental amendments to the land holding structure in the legislation can be considered, particularly for Lake Tyers. The recommendations for Minor Change are a necessary first step to create a foundation for the Trusts to consider more fundamental change in future.

Overview of the ALA

The ALA created two trusts: the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust and the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust (the Trusts). People living in each community on 1 January 1968 were given shares in that community’s Trust.

Each Trust holds the freehold title of the former mission reserve on behalf of the shareholders (or members). In this way, the shareholders own the land together.

The ALA sets out rules for how the Trusts should operate, and how the land can be used:

  • Each Trust can do all things that a corporation can do. However, there are some rules around when and how the Trust can do things. For example, land can only be sold if every shareholder who attends a special general meeting agrees.
  • A Committee of Management, chosen by members, manages the day-to-day affairs of the Trust.
  • The Trust can also hold general meetings, where shareholders can have a say about what the Trust should do. People who live at the Trusts, but don’t own shares, don’t get a vote.
  • The shares are “personal property”, which means they can be sold or given to other people, in the circumstances set out in the ALA.
  • The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Minister) supervises the Trusts. The Trusts need to report to the Minister on financial and other matters.
  • If the Minister believes that the Trust is not complying with the ALA’s provisions, the Minister can appoint an Administrator to replace the Committee of Management for a certain time.

Observations about the ALA

The Report makes several observations about the ALA which have informed the recommendations:

  1. The ALA was intended to achieve land justice and enable the communities to become self-sufficient. It was an important and historic step in the long struggle for Aboriginal people to have land rights.
  2. The share system is unique in giving shares to individuals which are personal property, and on which dividends can be paid. Any changes to the ALA that interfere with share ownership without giving compensation would be a breach of trust, and further dispossess Aboriginal people of their land.
  3. When the ALA was passed, all the residents were shareholders. However, now there are many shareholders who don’t live on the land, and some residents who aren’t shareholders. This means that there is less local participation in the decisions of the Trust, making it more difficult for the Trust to be effective. This is more of an issue at Lake Tyers than Framlingham because of the larger number of shareholders and residents at Lake Tyers.
  4. The Trusts are limited in scope – they were created to manage land and undertake business enterprises. Whatever changes are made to the ALA, it is important to realise that those changes can’t fix all social and economic challenges facing the communities.
  5. Because the ALA gave the Government a role supervising the Trusts, the Government has a responsibility to make sure that the ALA operates as intended.
  6. There are many factors that impact on how well the Trusts are working that are beyond the legal framework. If there are community problems or a lack of capacity in community, there are likely to be problems, regardless of the legal or organisational framework.
  7. There is no guaranteed funding for the Trusts. Income which is currently generated does not support the employment of many staff. Rules made for the Trusts need to be proportional to the Trust’s capacity to comply.
  8. The Lake Tyers and Framlingham communities are very different – in size, population, and in the make-up of shareholders and residents. The best solution for reform might be different for each community.

Issues with the ALA and Recommendations

The Report considers six key areas relevant to the operation of the ALA and considers the nature and extent of recommendations which might be made to improve the way that the ALA operates. These are:

  • The share system
  • Governance of the Trusts
  • External regulation of the Trusts
  • Dispute resolution
  • Facilitating engagement with residents
  • Sale of Trust land and providing for economic development.

In addition, the Report discusses two additional issues for potential recommendation, including: 

  1. Should the ALA be modernised and how? 
  2. Should there be a process of ongoing review built into the ALA?




External regulation

Facilitating Engagement with Trust Residents

Sale of Trust Land

Facilitating Economic Activity



Modernisation of the Act

Ongoing Review and Consultation