Aboriginal land claims

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW) (ALR Act) is important legislation that recognises the rights of Aboriginal people in NSW. The preamble of the legislation recognises that land in NSW was traditionally owned and occupied by Aboriginal people, and is of spiritual, social, cultural and economic importance to Aborigines. It recognises the need of Aboriginal people for land and acknowledges that land for Aboriginal people in the past was progressively reduced without compensation.

The department is responsible for assessing Aboriginal land claims against statutory criteria outlined in section 36 of the ALR Act. Generally, Crown land that is not being lawfully used or occupied, is not needed for an essential public purpose and is not impacted by Native Title (registration application or determination) can be granted through this process.

More information is available in the Aboriginal land claims fact sheet and Definition of terms fact sheet.

The process for lodging a claim

Claim lodgement

The ALR Act provides that the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and Local Aboriginal Land Councils may make claim(s) to claimable Crown land(s).

Claims are lodged with the Registrar of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 who is responsible for maintaining a Register of Aboriginal land claims. In turn, these claims are forwarded to the department for assessment and determination.

Claim assessment and determination

The department identifies and gathers relevant information about the land under claim and prepares a report for the Minister to allow the claim to be determined.

Notification and administration

Once the Minister has determined a claim, relevant stakeholders are informed and the department updates its records.

Transfer of land

When claims are granted, the department arranges the transfer of land to the relevant Land Council which includes preparation of transfer documents, lodgement with NSW Land Registry Services and postage of the certificate of title.

Survey of land

In certain circumstances, land may require a survey before the transfer can be completed and in these circumstances, the department will facilitate this process.


Land Councils have appeal rights to the NSW Land and Environment Court in respect of the Ministers determinations. Appeals are normally lodged within four months of the Ministers decision.