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HomeIssue 17Boost royalties, distribute CLC assets: Ryan's fiery agenda

Boost royalties, distribute CLC assets: Ryan's fiery agenda

A 50% not 10% royalty for Aborigines from mining anywhere in the Territory, not just on the half under granted under land rights; immediate distribution to traditional owners of the Centrecorp assets worth tens of millions of dollars; and a five billion dollar national future fund as compensation for Indigenous people: these are part of the fiery agenda of Maurie Japarta Ryan (pictured).
He is the new chairman of the Central Land Council (CLC) and the founder, 32 years ago, of the Australian First Nations Political Party which is putting Rosalie Kunoth Monks OAM as number one on its Senate ticket. Mr Ryan says his functions in the CLC and the party are two roles which he will keep strictly apart.
He has a six year history as a CLC member, some of them serving on the executive and as vice-chairman.
He describes himself as a human rights campaigner with the following complex lineage: “Malgin, Gurinji, Mudbara, Narroman, Bilinari, Warlpiri and Irish – and about 38 to 40 other tribes. I am 2400th generation Australian. I have been elected chairman of the CLC for the next three years by 90 elected members.”
Mr Ryan spoke with Alice Springs News Online editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
RYAN: At the moment the CLC exists not to protect the Aboriginal people but to protect mining companies.
NEWS: Miners are now obliged to pay 10% statutory royalties if they are on Aboriginal land. How much should they be paying?
RYAN: I want every company that is mining in Central Australia to pay more than that. 10% is nothing. I want at least half-half, to be realistic – half-half.
NEWS: Is that for mining companies operating on Aboriginal land or anywhere in Central Australia?
RYAN: I am saying the whole of the Northern Territory.
NEWS: Did you say 50% of the value of the ore?
RYAN: Why not? Most of our mining products go overseas. Those companies can pay 50%.
NEWS: What are the other issues within the CLC you feel need to be tackled?
RYAN: We need to sit down and work out who benefits – the Aboriginal people, traditional owners, instead of looking after the mining companies. Say it was your land, and there was gold or uranium underneath it, would you allow a mining company take 98%?
NEWS: If somebody finds gold on our family’s two hectares we’d get nothing except compensation for disturbance. Can we please move on to Centrecorp, the investment company of which the CLC has a three-fifths share. How much is that share worth? It is said to be tens of millions of dollars.
RYAN: I wouldn’t have a clue. I need to sit down with the administration arm of the land council and ask these questions. I know we have a share in Centrecorp, the biggest percentage.
NEWS: As a matter of policy, do you think the Centrecorp assets should be distributed to the traditional owners?
RYAN: The CLC is the shareholder and it represents 45,000 people. I don’t get any dividends at all. If it is a business it should show a profit or loss and who gets it.
NEWS: That’s the question I’m asking you, who should be getting it?
RYAN: If it’s the CLC who is the biggest shareholder it should go there, to divide amongst the traditional owners of Central Australia.
NEWS: And when should that take place?
RYAN: Well, it should have been happening all the time. That’s how businesses work.
NEWS: In June 2000 we published a report quoting CLC staffer Toly Sawenko and headed “Land Council seeks ground breaking deal” which was about a $9m citrus growing project at Utopia “providing income and employment on a large scale to people on communities currently with massive unemployment”. Nothing has come of that. Last week we reported that Centrefarm, a CLC arm, is starting another project in that region, near TiTree, using a Federal loan and “offering” job opportunities. Do you think public money should be provided only if the unemployed take and hold down jobs in a sustained way, rather than just making making jobs available?
RYAN: I don’t know what happened 13 years ago. I’ve been with the CLC only six years. I’m familiar with Centrefarm but I don’t know the project you’re talking about. I’ve been the chairman only six weeks.
NEWS: Generally speaking, should land use projects driven by the CLC require that unemployed people in the region accept sustained employment?
RYAN: When I put my hand up to become chairperson of the land council, it was on the  grounds of changing the land council, and economic development in remote areas was one of the big things. There is no longer the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) in communities.
The shires have gone broke. The governments, Federal and State, have let down Aboriginal people many, many times. People talk about the NT as a food bowl. I believe in people growing things, for themselves and their communities. There was a grape farm at Finke. When the shires took over it collapsed. I am a member of Aboriginal Business Australia. We are looking at developing Aboriginal businesses.
NEWS: The Aboriginal mining royalties association, Kurra Aboriginal Corporation, involved in the current TiTree project, in 2011/12 had total accumulated funds amounting to $33.6m. Why should they get government help?
RYAN: It’s the first time I’ve heard this. I don’t know these figures. I don’t check bank accounts of organisations affiliated with the CLC. I can’t tell them what to do with their royalties. I’ve only been chairman six weeks, trying to get my head around how the CLC operates, how it should operate, how it should protect its members.
NEWS: How should it?
RYAN: Everybody knows in all remote communities the Intervention system has failed our people. It is an indictment of the Federal and the Northern Territory governments, not delivering services such as education, health and housing. Land rights has given us 52% of land in the Northern Territory. We need education and health to use it.
NEWS: At present that land is communally owned. Is there a case for individual ownership of land and homes?
RYAN: $672m was spent by the Federal Government on the SIHIP program. Not much of that went to Central Australia. You can buy land in a remote community if you have permission of the traditional owners, and they separate a piece off.
NEWS: Is that buying or leasing?
RYAN: Who is going to give people $300,000 or $500,000 to buy a house? Nobody! And the royalties are not that much. They are divided up amongst traditional owners.
NEWS: Kurra gets more than $6m a year in royalties. Half is paid to traditional owners and the rest stays with the association. It now owns $34m. Aboriginal people wouldn’t need to buy Aboriginal land. It could be given to them from the pool of communally owned freehold land – half the Territory – and they could then set up businesses on their own land with the cash they have. Why always rely on the government?
RYAN: Two million nine hundred and sixty thousand and three hundred square kilometres – what is that?
NEWS: I don’t know.
RYAN: That’s all of Australia. That land mass belongs to the 550,000 descendants of the First Nations people. I am talking about ownership of the whole country. We’ve got to get that right. Australia’s wealth is off our lands. We are beggars in our own country.
NEWS: What should be done about that?
RYAN: I am the head of a political party. I want five billion dollars as a futures fund. When Peter Costello was in office he put in three billion. I want five. I want an apology for the atrocities inflicted upon my people since 1788. The killings, the murders, deceit, lies, terra nullius. An apology for what happened in the Intervention, the accusations flying around.
I want an apology to the stolen generation of 2000 people. Kevin Rudd said “sorry”. What about compensation for the time we were put in jail, into institutions for 18 years. I was one of them. That’s the things I’m looking at.
NEWS: Can we go back to the 52% of Territory land under Aboriginal freehold. At present it is inalienable – it cannot be sold nor used as loan collateral. Should there be an option of individual ownership, the same way as anyone else in Australia owns land, so owners can put a house on it, a business, an enterprise?
RYAN: I would love to see that, yes. Who is the stumbling block? The governments.
NEWS: The land councils can only lease land to individuals. Should there be outright individual ownership?
RYAN: Let’s talk about this lease. When are the Federal Government and the Queen of England going to pay the lease for Australia since 1788 to the Aboriginal people? This land was not bought. It was stolen.


  1. The Land Councils are glorified real estate agents established and appointed by the Commonwealth to be the keepers of the secrets of where and when leases were issued.
    As corporate landowners the various Land Trusts purportedly act on instructions from their shareholders the “Traditional Owners” to occasionally instruct their relevant Land Councils issue leases.
    Perhaps as chairman of the Central Land Council Maurie Japarta Ryan can explain to readers exactly why “Traditional Landowners” are still refused leases for those quarter acre block houses they occupy?
    Without such leases many “Traditional Owners” remain denied otherwise basic rights to have their family, friends or trades-persons of their choice, come to visit them or stay with them in same “their houses”.
    “Traditional Owners” are also denied ability to obtain protective orders to protect their own assets in these houses from being trashed by others when away because they lack leases giving them the right to exclude others.

  2. Land Councils and other Aboriginal organisations could invest funds they receive back into community-based projects like health, education and housing whereby in partnership with governments (Territory and Federal), local commercial and business ventures so much could be achieved. It would be an investment into their own people’s health and well-being. If everyone contributes, then everyone shares ownership.

  3. So MR has been an executive member of CLC and doesn’t have a clue how much Centrecorp is worth. Does he have a clue about directors’ responsibilities or a clue about using the corporation’s funds as set out in its charter.
    He certainly has a view that traditional owners should be among the beneficiaries.
    As for his view that royalties should be set at 50% of the value of the ore, I can only think that he wants to abort employment opportunities for all in the mining sector in the NT.

  4. Ah, another firebrand who wishes to blame everything on us whitefellas. Until Centrecorp is publicly accountable for its massive asset base and shown to be legitimately distributing its profits to the broader Aboriginal population, how can there be any serious constructive way forward for ALL AUSTRALIANS?
    The secrets behind CLC, Centrecorp and numerous “agencies” that are supposedly acting for the good of indigenous people are tightly kept because only a small minority of these people really do benefit. Such poverty and squalor in town camps and communities would not be to the current extent if an equitable distribution of profits actually existed.
    CLC just provides another layer of smokescreen between legitimate business and the small number of “unnamed fatcats” that currently reap wealth which should be spread more realistically amongst the wider Aboriginal population.
    If the likes of Centrecorp are such responsible corporate citizens, why not openly show the general public how it is of such great assistance to the very people it is supposed to represent.

  5. Mr Ryan states that he wants to bring change to the CLC and economic development in remote areas. They are big tasks.
    How would he ensure that traditional owners and others who receive mining royalties, compensation payments, Centrecorp payouts and payments for government lease of land, leases to businesses, etc. have access to an accounting process under which all Australians have a tax file number? This will become increasingly necessary in the current economic climate and into the future.
    Taxpayers contribute to the things we all take for granted, like roads, education, health and welfare, but the majority in remote areas are alcohol dependent far beyond their visible means of welfare support.
    The issue of low-cost housing on communities begs the question of who is going to continue to maintain this when government funds are bound by budget deficit and the end of a resources boom investment, with an aging population.
    Private ownership of communal Aboriginal land must begin. Aboriginal people are capable of organising construction of their own homes if paid work is available. This revolution must be fought.
    Nobody is doing anyone any favours by pretending that things can go on forever as they are and Mr Ryan is in a positon to bring about positive social change in passive welfare, employment, land tenure and housing.
    I can understand his frustration and angst regarding the way that Aboriginal people have been treated in respect to education and health, but we need to work together to make things work and there are well intentioned people willing to form a partnership with Mr Ryan’s leadership.
    I would like to hear more from him regarding private ownership of land and income taxation. Let’s be one country on this as well as on constitutional recognition. This social infrastructure is within Aboriginal grasp, going by the financial figures quoted by Alice Springs News Online. This is a good time for reform.
    And while we’re at it, the rest of Australia is reforming alcohol supply. The NTG need to take a longer term view of this problem than simply sinking $145m into Alcohol Mandatory Treatment (AMT).

  6. This is a very tickly position that Mr Ryan has put himself and the CLC in. On one hand he is the CLC chairman and in the other he wants to be an active member of the First Nations Party. Not a good position for the CLC to be in regarding their chairman.

  7. Maurie Japarta Ryan as chairman of the Central Land Council is responsible for housing maintenance in the communities.
    Central Land Council was appointed by the Commonwealth as property agent for the corporate landowners the Land Trusts, except where the corporate landowners formally transfer this responsibility.
    Legally issues related to housing on communities are simple, even for who should maintain the houses.
    Maintenance remains responsibility of landowners. In these cases the corporate Land Trusts holding titles, except where valid leases issued transfer such responsibilities.
    Housing on communities is NOT low cost, costs are higher than in Alice Springs.
    Costs for maintenance of the houses need first be met from rents collected.
    Shortfalls, IF they exists, need to be met by owners – the corporate Land Trusts which own the land thus the houses, except where proven valid leases were issued which transferring this responsibility.
    IF corporate Land Trusts lack the funds, they need obtain loans like other landowners.
    IF costs arise from negligence, criminality, other mishaps the corporate Land Trusts may claim upon their insurers.
    IF unusual circumstances, like natural disasters, then they may seek special assistance from the government.
    So Maurie Japarta Ryan, as chairman of the Central Land Council the agent responsible for housing maintenance in the communities, what are you doing to ensure the housing is brought up to standards expected?

  8. This is a highly complex business. No easy questions, no easy answers.
    I do think Paul has it wrong in relation to housing maintenance. Very heavy pressure has been placed on communities (and traditional owners) by both the Commonwealth and NT governments to grant long term leases (I believe 40 years with a one way option to extend another 40 years).
    As far as I know all communities thus approached have by now caved in. Some years ago NT Housing appropriated all “community houses”.
    They did so at the same time as the mega-shires took over assets and operations of the local councils.
    The Shires were then contracted by Territory Housing to maintain these houses on its behalf.
    Rent has been automatically deducted from Centrelink payments (often regardless of how many people shared these residences or what condition these places were in or whether the people concerned were actually living on the community).
    In other words the land councils are not responsible for housing maintenance. Ownership, responsibility for maintenance and rent collection is now all under NT Housing control.
    A further complication is the Commonwealth SIHIP initiative which is (at last) actively refurbishing existing residences and building new houses. All this is welcomed by local residents, but will not constitute ownership.
    The idea that locals will be able to take out loans on their houses to start a business is very far from being a likely reality. There are many hurdles, all of them labelled Catch-22.
    As I did say – this is a highly complex business, so I am not 100% sure that all of this is accurate.

  9. The CLC has got nothing to do with housing maintenance nor are they responsible for housing rentals. These services are now delivered by NT Housing. The CLC is responsible and accountable and protecting the Land Rights Act. That comes in many different formats and programmes on Aboriginal land. There is a interview here between the Chairman of the Central Land Council / First Nations Political Party and the Alice News.
    Remembering that there is an election around the corner. To me the Chairman / FNPP has a straight and direct conflict of interest which only the CLC delegates have the power to address and discuss and act in the best interests of the CLC.

  10. @ J posted 22 July. 3: 32pm.
    It is a complex business and getting more so, just like the reformed Rudd Asylum-Seeker Policy, not to mention the increasing cost to a finite taxpayer funded budget. The parallels are obvious.
    The “business” we are discussing includes private ownership on Aboriginal communal land within a culture that has an obligated, sharing base and similarly exercised housing stock arrangement, most unlike the freehold arrangement found in the individually owned housing model of non-Aboriginal culture (apart from public housing), while multi-million dollar Aboriginal community-owned funds sit in the bank accumulating interest.
    We are informed by NTG ministers that they are capable of implementing change, but to take one example – the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment (AMT) policy, we find that the Banned Drinkers Register and associated court structures were dismantled in favour of a $145m scheme to “rehabilitate” problem drinkers.
    In this, I am reminded again of the Rudd Asylum Seeker Policy where a multi-pronged front is needed to both deter people smugglers and continue to house the flood of boat people, while turning boats around where it is safe to do so, etc.
    The NTG are like Mr Rudd’s second coming, having dismantled the BDR and stopped at the AMT, while the Chief Minister supports drinking as part of the “core culture” of the NT.
    Is this all the NTG is capable of in the face of an epidemic of alcohol-abuse, passive welfare spending on grog leading to an unemployable workforce kept out of sight on so-called remote “bush” communities where high unemployment rates are excused? Will this be this government’s legacy? Will Mr Tollner suffer the ignominy of Mr Swan?
    Expecting the liberal free enterprise ethic to flourish while private ownership of land on communities and royalty / lease payments remain untaxed makes prospects of regional development look a bit dodgy, even with Senator Scullion seemingly turning a blind eye to these socialist anachronisms.
    We can’t hide behind the complexity forever, unless of course the NTG has a preferred position, or perhaps, the Chief Minister is confusing core culture with core complexity.

  11. Communities (and traditional owners) were advised either they grant long term leases or the Land Trusts will be held responsible for the maintenance of their own houses.
    Finally the Commonwealth achieved some leases being issued.
    When leases are obtained Commonwealth arranges for NTG to provide services through various grants.
    Where leases are not obtained Commonwealth, NTG and their contractors are NOT responsible to provide similar services to the private land.
    Where leases are issued thus transfer responsibility, or, where statutory responsibilities apply, services will be provided.
    Elsewhere land-owners are responsible and accountable for what happens.
    Under the terms of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 as amended the land trusts hold titles to the land.
    For to long Commonwealth political racism, with some cowardice and obstructionism, allowed these corporate land trusts and their agents, the Central Land Council, to avoid being held to account and responsibility.
    Higher than expected unemployment rates, failed development, feelings of little to be gained in schooling, within these rural communities result from three decades of refusal by the responsible corporate land trusts to grant reasonable leases.
    Granting of leases encourages development, employment, and opportunities to look further than our Taliban like system.

  12. Ryan is another who has jumped on the band wagon.  
    The Traditional Ownership is a way for the rich aboriginals and their friends to get something for nothing.  When you live around here and see all the poor Aboriginals and the kids that miss out just because the rich like this man want everything.  
    On top of that they deny whites and other cultures rights to basic services that they pay tax for. Like I said before the Aboriginals apparently own the hospital to the exclusion of everyone else – apparently they can deny taxation people checking their incomes and are allowed to wreck Territory Housing Houses, don’t have to pay for schooling and a lot of other stuff.
    We are now in 2013 and they are still complaining about something that happened in the 1800s.  
    Some don’t even look after their disabled, poor or aged.  The only ones you ever hear about are the ones that want something for nothing.  The ones who don’t complain are the ones that look after their families, work, send their kids to school just like the rest of us.

  13. Bev Emmott (Posted July 27, 2013 at 7:46 am), you persist in making unfair generalisations about Aboriginal people, and making wrong claims about their receipt of government benefits.
    I have known Maurie for a long time, and I am confident that he is an honourable, reasonable, sincere and hard working person. Maurie is now aged sixty-four I think, and he is certainly not a bandwagon jumper or johnny-come-lately.
    Yes, he gets a very good salary now that he is CLC Chairman, but he has spent his life working at average pay and steadfastly advocating for his people to help resolve the very problems about which you are so concerned, such as the poverty, neglect and poor education of children, and the alcohol problems and unemployment afflicting many of their fathers.
    The demands which Maurie articulated to Erwin may have been confronting and some of them may have been somewhat extravagant or ill-considered, but he is not advocating for greater benefits from mining out of personal greed, or on behalf of some fat-cat mates. He is doing it out of concern for the poor and weak members of the community.
    Aboriginal “traditional ownership” of land is no more of a fraud than is Gina Reinhart and James Packer or any other person owning or inheriting property from their fathers and mothers.
    If you are against the ownership and inheritance of property, don’t pick on Aboriginal people. You should attack these principles of our society at the national level, and advocate for relevant changes to the Australian and state constitutions and legal systems, but please don’t scapegoat one group of fairly vulnerable people for expecting to receive their inheritance and benefit from their birthright, and endeavouring to gain some compensation for the terrible way their families were treated in the past, as these people have generally suffered prejudice, discrimination, dispossession and repression in their own country throughout most of the past 225 years.
    I don’t understand how you can claim that “[Aborigines] deny whites and other cultures rights to basic services that they pay tax for … Aboriginals apparently own the hospital to the exclusion of everyone else … they can deny taxation people checking their incomes and are allowed to wreck Territory Housing Houses” as none of these things are true as far as I can see.
    I know many Aboriginal people who have to pay for damage caused to their houses, even though the damage may not have been caused by them. I and many other non-Aboriginals known to me have been treated very well at the hospital.
    I know many Aboriginal people who have had to pay off debts to the Tax Office. I don’t know of any “basic services” denied to other needy people because of Aboriginal people. Can you justify your fairly wild accusations?

  14. After reading the comments and story, a couple of things need to be addressed. The main thing is that Mr Ryan does not represent the CLC or any of its delegates on any of his personal wants and needs. They are totally his party’s views on how the world turns and his party’s views alone.
    Another thing is that every time he makes a comment he will be directly linked to firstly the CLC (this is who pays him) and then secondly to the First Nations Political Party.
    In this time of election mode seems like he is driving the CLC bus to deliver the First Nations policies and information. Is this a conflict of interest, Maurie?

  15. That’s the problem with the NT and everywhere else as soon as someone mentions changes, people get their backs up against the wall. Newsflash, how are we ever going to progress in these organisations or as a country if we have people who are set in their ways and are afraid of changes?
    Gee, the man hasn’t even been there long to make these changes or try something new and already he is under the line of fire.
    What happened to giving people a chance? Plus it’s time to get in new people and a pair fresh eyes into these organisations … especially CLC!
    Good on you Maurie, it’s people like you who aren’t afraid of telling the truth how it is and who has the compassion and dedication to help out our people.
    At least you are not sitting on big money at these organisations doing squat for our people.

  16. For people to have a chance requires them being able to obtain leases.
    The Commonwealth’s ALR(NT) enables the Land Trusts through the land councils to lease areas of land to individuals or to incorporated entities.
    For far too long few leases have been arranged, largely due Land Trusts’ refusals to provide leases, reasonable in terms of duration, cost and conditions, with few exceptions to people or to incorporated entities.
    Leases give rights and responsibilities.

  17. ABC reported the Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner raising with Commonwealth’s new Indigenous Affairs Minister Senator Nigel Scullion the need for various ALR(NT) corporate entities to start paying municipal service rates for their land when they charge rents.
    Agree with Mr Tollner these corporate land-owners need start paying the relevant municipal services rates.
    Residents of the communities “are the most disadvantaged, the most disenfranchised” in the NT; The primary causes are these corporate landowning trusts refusing to accept their responsibilities as landowners so landlords and managers, their refusal to behave as other landowners required to – use their incomes to provide, to improve, the basic services.
    Refusing to be reasonable landlords is how they deny their share-holders, who also are tenants, such disadvantage and disenfranchising.
    Rates then is just one area they need be accountable over.


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