Land tenure and availability

Aboriginal freehold land

Aboriginal freehold land is unique to the Northern Territory (NT), it does not exist in any other state or territory in Australia.

It came into being in 1976 when the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act was passed, converting former Aboriginal reserves into permanent Aboriginal freehold.

Aboriginal freehold land is inalienable freehold title, meaning it cannot be sold. It is referred to as 'schedule one' land, and is formally held by an Aboriginal land trust.

Any application to explore for minerals or petroleum on Aboriginal freehold land has to be negotiated through the process laid out in the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act.

Applications are lodged with the department and must follow the relevant acts as well as Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act. Read more about applying for a mineral title or petroleum title.

Grant of an exploration licence or permit on Aboriginal freehold land can only go ahead after consultation with the Aboriginal traditional owners through their representative land council, and an agreement reached. 

The traditional owners have the right to refuse access to their land or refuse permission for exploration.

You cannot make an application for a mineral lease or production licence unless you hold an exploration licence/permit over that area. 

The traditional owners are represented in negotiations by their relevant land council. There are four in the NT:


For information about applying for titles over Aboriginal freehold land contact the Native Title and Aboriginal Land Rights Unit.

Useful resources

On country presentation template PPS (866.0 KB)

Exploration on Aboriginal freehold land factsheet PDF (1.6 MB)
Exploration on Aboriginal freehold land factsheet DOCX (260.6 KB)

The flow charts below outline the application process under the Aboriginal Lands Rights Act.

Flowchart of Aboriginal Land Rights Act process PDF (840.3 KB)
Flowchart of Aboriginal Land Rights Act process DOCX (83.0 KB)

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Last updated: 04 February 2020

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