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The Australian National University

Land rights and development reform in remote Australia

Discussion Paper 276 / 2005


There has been escalating media coverage of the view that Indigenous economic disadvantage and housing and infrastructure shortages are linked to communal title to land resulting from land rights and native title. A variety of powerful figures have been suggesting that privatizing or individuating this land might generate better economic and social outcomes for Indigenous people, especially in remote and very remote Australia.

This Discussion Paper challenges this view in two ways; by reviewing the existing literature and by examining recently available statistics, especially on Indigenous housing need and affordability. The paper focuses most specifically on the situation in the Northern Territory for a variety of reasons. First, land rights are most deeply embedded and extensive in this jurisdiction. Second, there is no doubt that some of the most intractable development, housing and infrastructure issues facing remote Indigenous communities are evident in the Northern Territory.

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