Some 25 years after the implementation of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA) and with the legislation currently under review and 'at risk', as some have argued, it is timely to reconsider the class of organisation referred to as 'royalty associations'. This paper examines the organisational history, objectives, and activities of the oldest royalty association in the Northern Territory, the Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation (hereafter referred to as the NAC or the Corporation), and presents key findings made by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research's recent review of that organisation. The opportunities and challenges encountered by the NAC are described in order to highlight lessons relevant to all Indigenous royalty associations.
A model of royalty associations
The paper develops a general model of royalty associations per se, and makes a considered evaluation of the related public policy implications arising from the review by John Reeves QC (1998) into the ALRA and the subsequent inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.
It is concluded that, in performing their primary function of receiving, managing and distributing moneys, royalty associations operate in a critical position as brokers and negotiators between two economic systems of production and distribution. As result, they:
- have become multi-dimensional financial organisations, delivering a wide range of social, economic, cultural and political services;
- need to target their functions and service delivery to key financial activities in which they have a competitive niche;
- should secure service delivery agreements with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and government to ensure their activities are part of a coordinated approach to regional service delivery;
- would benefit from a consortium approach to obtaining independent commercial expertise and advice;
- should separately and collectively undertake a period of strategic planning;
- should have their operations broadly monitored by the land councils; and
- will need to maintain dual investment strategies, preferably by way of statutory or constitutional commitment, which ensure both income stream protection for future members, and income generation to facilitate enterprise development and targeted employment.
ISBN: 0 7315 2620 1