Land tenure

A large portion of the Northern Territory (NT) is Aboriginal land as determined by the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act with most of the remaining mass subject to native title rights and interests. Read the law.

In December 2009, the NT Government instructed that all new and existing infrastructure on Aboriginal land in the 73 previously prescribed remote communities must be secured through long term leases appropriate to the economic life of the asset.

Land Tenure Unit

The Land Tenure Unit leads the whole of government coordination of land tenure in remote communities.

The unit is responsible for coordinating and negotiating government infrastructure and remote community housing leases, with legal advice provided by the NT Department of Attorney-General and Justice.

The unit works closely with land councils, traditional owners, the Federal Government and NT government agencies to implement land administration arrangements in remote Indigenous communities that:

  • provide security for government investments, for remote public housing and NT government infrastructure
  • enable economic development through private business investment, private home ownership and individual wealth creation.

The unit’s work involves building land administration systems in remote communities from the ground up. This includes planning, valuations and long-term leasing.

The work requires approaches that respects Aboriginal land rights and the unique cultural identity of each community.

Aboriginal land leasing arrangements

The role of the Land Tenure Unit includes negotiating and securing long-term leases for all NT government infrastructure.

This includes:

  • schools
  • training centres
  • health centres
  • police stations
  • government employee housing
  • Indigenous Essential Services assets such as power stations and sewerage ponds.

Remote community housing

The Federal and Northern Territory Governments have committed to securing long-term leases in remote communities to provide remote housing services and deliver housing through the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing Program (NPARIH).

Through a housing lease a community may agree to lease all existing and new community housing lots to the Executive Director of Township Leasing (EDTL), the Federal or Northern Territory Government for a minimum of 40 years.

Whole of township leases

Whole of township leases are long-term leases over communities on Aboriginal land under section 19A of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA).

The Executive Director of Township Leasing (EDTL) is an independent statutory officeholder also set up under the ALRA.

The EDTL holds and administers township leases on behalf of the Federal Government.

A head lease is held over an entire township, including the current town footprint and areas for new development, with lease terms and conditions negotiated with land owners and the government.

Leases can be for a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 99 years.

Once township leases are in place, the Northern Territory Government will enter into sublease agreements over parcels of land occupied by its infrastructure.

Land councils

Land Councils are established under Federal government legislation. It is the statutory function of Land Councils to consult with Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal people for lease proposals.


Contact the Land Tenure Unit by emailing

Last updated: 31 January 2020

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