Australian Government – Office of Township Leasing

Current Leases

Section 19A of the Land Rights Act allows Aboriginal Land Trusts to grant a Whole of Township Lease to the Executive Director of Township Leasing.

 Township Leases are entered into following voluntary negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and Traditional Owner, represented by the respective Land Council and Land Trust. Township Lease negotiations may take some time for al parties to reach agreement. However, one of the main benefits of a Township Lease, once it has been established, is that the Executive Director is able to streamline the granting of long term subleases comparatively quickly compared to other forms of leasehold interests on Aboriginal Land.

 In the year under review the Executive Director held three Township Leases covering six communities.

Wurrumiyanga (Nguiu)

 On behalf of the Australian Government the Executive Director Township Leasing entered into the first Whole of Township Lease over the Township of Nguiu on Bathurst Island on  30 August 2007. In 2010 the Township was renamed "Wurrumiyanga", a Tiwi word meaning "the place where the cycads grow". The parties to the Township Lease are  the Tiwi Aboriginal Land Trust, the Tiwi Land Council and the Executive Director Township Leasing. The term of the head lease is for 99 years.

 The community of Wurrumiyanga (Nguiu) is located on the south-east corner of Bathurst Island, which is one of the two main Tiwi Islands. The Tiwi Islands are approximately  70 kilometres north of Darwin and Wurrumiyanga has a population of approximately 1500 permanent residents. The community consists of residential areas, a commercial centre and government facilities, including a police station, health centre, swimming pool and airfield.

View Wurrumiyanga in Google Maps

Milikapiti and Wurankuwu (Ranku) Township Lease

The second Township Lease in the Tiwi Islands is over the communities of Milikapiti and Ranku and this lease was signed on 22 November 2011 for a period of 99 years. The Milikapiti and Ranku Township Lease covers the existing towns’ footprints as well as some vacant land to accommodate new development in the communities. The two communities are located on separate islands. The Traditional Owners agreed to a single Township Lease because of the strong historical and Traditional Owner affiliations across the two communities. However under the Township Lease each community has established its own local Consultative Forum.

Milikapiti community has a population of approximately 560 people and is located on Melville Island. It is Australia’s second largest island after Tasmania and one of the two main land masses which make up the Tiwi Islands. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) built an airfield there as a forward fighter aerodrome during World War II in preparation for proposed strategic amphibious operations in the Dutch East Indies. This airport is now known as Snake Bay.
Wurankuwu (Ranku) is about 90 km by air (25 mins) from Darwin and is located on the western side of Bathurst Island. The Ranku airstrip is also the site of a former World War II RAAF strip. Currently Ranku has a population of about 60-80 people.

Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island

In December 2008 the Anindliyakwa Land Trust, representing the Traditional Owners of Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island, entered into a Whole of Township Lease with the Executive Director Township Leasing over the communities of Angurugu, Umbakumba and Milyakburra. The term of the head lease is for an initial term of 40 years with an option exercisable by the Executive Director for a further 40 years.

The Groote Eylandt archipelago is situated on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, approximately 600 kilometres south-east of Darwin. Groote Eylandt is the largest island in the Gulf, with an area of 2687 square kilometres. The Traditional Owners are Warnindilyakwa, but are referred to by their language name Anindilyakwa.

View Groote Eylandt in Google Maps

Alice Springs Living Areas

Sub-section 20CA of the of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Township Leasing) Act 2007 allows for the Executive Director to hold leases and subleases over community living areas, town camps and prescribed land on behalf of the Commonwealth, as well as township leases and section 19 leases.  

In December 2009 the Executive Director, on behalf of the Australian Government, entered into sublease agreements over seventeen Alice Springs Living Areas (also known as Town Camps). Other parties to the sublease include the relevant Alice Springs Housing Association, the Northern Territory Government and the Chief Executive Officer of Northern Territory Housing. The underlying land tenure of the Alice Springs Living Areas is that each Town Camp is a perpetual Lease, the title to which is held by the relevant Aboriginal Housing Association. The Alice Springs Living Areas subleases are for a term of 40 years.
List of the Alice Springs Town Camps where Executive Director holds subleases
Housing Association Town Camp
Mpwetyerre Aboriginal Corporation Abbotts
Ilparpa Aboriginal Corporation Ilparpa
Karnte Aboriginal Corporation Karnte
Anthelk-Ewlpaye Aboriginal Corporation and Hoppys Camp Hoppys
Anthelk-Ewlpaye Aboriginal Corporation Charles Crk
Anthelk-Ewlpaye Aboriginal Corporation Kunoth
Akngwertnarre Association Incorporated Morris Soak
Anthepe Housing Association Incorporated Drive In
Aper-Alwerrknge Association Incorporated and Palmers Camp Palmers
Ewyenper-Atwatye Association Incorporated Hidden Valley
Ilperle Tyathe Association Incorporated Warlpiri
Ilyperenye Association Incorporated Old Timers
Inarlenge Community Incorporated Little Sisters
Mt Nancy Housing Association Incorporated Mt Nancy Basso
Basso's Farm Basso
Larapinta Valley Larapinta
Nyewnete Incorporated Trucking Yards


Housing Precinct Leases

It is Australian Government policy that each major investment in an asset located on Aboriginal land should be secured by a long-term lease. In the case of the significant current investment in housing on land held under the Act, the Australian Government has negotiated Housing Precinct Leases under Section 19 of the Act. . A Housing Precinct Lease over community housing ensures that Government has the necessary level of access to and control over land so that new houses can be built and existing houses can be maintained. It also enables fairer property and tenancy management arrangements to be put in place. Unlike a Whole of Township Lease, a Housing Precinct Lease only covers the community housing in each community and does not allow for commercial subleasing arrangements.
 On 29 June 2011 the Executive Director Township Leasing entered into Housing Precinct Leases over the current community housing areas of the Townships of Lajamanu & Hermannsburg. The term of the head lease is for 40 years. The Executive Director has subsequently entered into a sublease with the Chief Executive (Housing) on behalf of the Northern Territory Government to manage and maintain the public housing in these communities. 


Lajamanu is located approximately 560 kilometres south west of Katherine, on the northern edge of the Tanami Desert and the eastern side of Hooker Creek. Access is via the sealed Buntine Highway and then via 100 kilometres of unsealed road. Road access can also be made from Alice Springs on unsealed road. By road the travel time is 6 hours drive from Katherine. Population is estimated at around 700 people.  


Hermannsburg (Ntaria)

Hermannsburg is located 130 kilometres west of Alice Springs by road and it takes 1.5 hours to drive there. The 130 kilometres access road to the community from Alice Springs is sealed the entire distance. It was established as an Aboriginal mission in 1877 by Lutheran missionaries and was named after Hermannsburg in Germany. The population is estimated at around 600 people.