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Leases and their benefits

Leases for terms up to 99 years can be granted under the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 and the Torres Strait Islander Land Act 1991.

Changes to law that came into effect on 1 January 2015 give the trustees of the land the power to grant leases on Indigenous land to any person or entity for terms up to 99 years. The leaseholder gets to use the land for an agreed purpose (e.g. home building, or commercial or government services) and for an agreed time (the term of the lease). The leaseholder must pay a price/rent for the lease and follow the terms and conditions applying to the lease.

If a lease is not renewed at the end of its term, it ends and the land returns back to the control of the trustee.

Benefits of leases

Leases on Indigenous land can benefit communities because:

  • they provide home ownership and economic development opportunities, while giving the trustee an income stream from the use of the land
  • long-term leases give leaseholders the security to get a loan—to build a home, develop a business, or install and operate infrastructure.

Lease terms and types

Standard leases are granted to any person  for a term of up to 99 years for any purpose (e.g. commercial, cultural, religious, government services or public infrastructure purposes). The leaseholder pays a yearly rent to the trustee.

Home ownership leases are renewable 99-year leases for private residential purposes granted to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and/or their spouses. The leaseholder must pay a yearly rent of no more than $1, as well as an upfront lump sum payment for the land and any house on the land that they did not build.

Townsite leases are perpetual leases granted to a local government authority over Indigenous trust land that has been regulated as township land. A nominal rent applies.

Other leases

In some communities there may be leases (or lease applications) under the then Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (Land Holding) Act 1985 (often called 'Land Holding Act' and 'Katter' leases). We are working to resolve issues relating to these leases and lease entitlements.