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2. Economic development and other key objectives

Date

This chapter discusses the key objectives identified by the Working Group for management of land-related payments received by Indigenous groups. These key objectives fall under the headings of economic development, sustainability, governance and administrative simplicity.

2.1 Economic development

Effective participation by Indigenous people in the Australian economy is critical to addressing the disparity in employment and income levels between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and contributing to our continued economic growth as a nation.

Indigenous communities are concerned to ensure that land-related payments and other income are applied effectively to promote sustainable economic development. This economic development could take a variety of forms including community-focused development, the support and promotion of individual Indigenous entrepreneurs (for example, by providing loans) and building skills in Indigenous communities to take advantage of employment opportunities created by mining, agriculture, tourism and other industries.

2.2 Sustainability

The sustainability of economic development of Indigenous communities for future generations is a key objective. It is generally taken to require:

  • ensuring the interests of both current and future members of communities are represented and protected in decision-making (noting that the interests of current and future members must be properly balanced in such decision-making);
  • ensuring communities understand agreements under which they are entitled to receive land-related payments, and are provided with the information required to understand and make informed decisions about how those payments are deployed;
  • incorporating mechanisms to ensure that at least some of the land-related payments and other income received by the community is adequately preserved; and
  • ensuring land-related payments and other income are applied for the benefit of not only the current but also future generations.5

As the Minerals Council of Australia and the National Native Title Council explain in their proposal, it is common for native title payments to be received by native title groups as a number of relatively small payments from several mining agreements which individually may not provide the critical mass necessary to promote sustainable economic and social development.6 The arrangements for holding and managing land-related payments and other income need to facilitate accumulation from multiple agreements and potentially from multiple claimant groups.

2.3 Governance

Governance arrangements should be transparent and promote accountability and the sustainability of land-related payments and other income. Sound governance is critical to ensure that land-related payments and other income are:

  • directed in accordance with the decisions of the Indigenous community, including for community and socio-economic development purposes; and
  • sustainable for future generations.

Sound governance will also give greater certainty to the provider of the land-related payments that payments will be directed to agreed purposes.

Poor governance arrangements may reduce the benefits that Indigenous communities can derive from land-related payments now or in the future.

2.4 Administrative simplicity

Currently there is no entity tailored to the circumstances of Indigenous communities that they can use to manage land-related payments and other income, and leverage off them. It is arguable that current arrangements may not be the most effective way to promote the sustainable economic development of a community:

  • Current arrangements can require extensive planning and expertise to structure appropriately, and some communities may lack access to such resources and expertise.
  • Even where such expertise and resources are available, the complexity of the arrangements entered into to achieve taxation and other objectives frequently means establishment costs are high and the resulting arrangements may impose an onerous compliance burden.
  • Existing arrangements do not necessarily deliver all the outcomes communities are looking for, because such arrangements were not designed for the unique circumstances such communities face.

5 For example, see FaHCSIA and AGD discussion paper of July 2010, Leading practice agreements: maximising outcomes from native title benefits, p 4.

6 Minerals Council of Australia and National Native Title Council's Indigenous Community Development Corporation (ICDC) Concept (March 2013), p 3.