‘The Tiwi Land Council is primarily an expression of Tiwi traditions, going back more than 40,000 years’
The Tiwi Land Council was established on 18 August 1978, following representation by the Tiwi people to the Federal Government for recognition of their distinct geographic and cultural identity. The Land Council was instituted by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable Ian Viner, at a special gathering on Bathurst Island on 7 September 1978.
However, prior to the establishment of the Land Council, the Tiwi Aboriginal Land Trust was established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The Tiwi Land Council is the only body with authority and capacity to direct and administer the Trust.
Composition of the Tiwi Land Trust and the Tiwi Land Council was determined at a meeting of the Land Council held on 7 February 1979. Selection procedures for membership was initially based on 12 clan or ‘country’ groups on the Tiwi Islands.
These 12 clan groups were consolidated to seven in 1981, with Tiwi traditional owners agreeing to collective representation. On 6 October 1981, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs approved the membership of each of the Clan leaders on the Land Trust. These leaders appointed four other members from their respective clan groups, bringing the membership of the Land Council to 35 people.
On 16 November 1987, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs approved a total of 6 people to represent each clan group, including the Land Trustee, bringing the Land Council membership to 42.
In 1992, the Tiwi Land Council applied to the Hon Robert Tickner, the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, to include an additional clan group and on 26 May 1992 an eighth group of the Land Council was approved. This brought the membership to 48. Representation of each clan group has since been reduced to 4 people and, through attrition, the future membership will be 32.
In 1995, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs approved the appointment of the Tiwi Management Committee under the Commonwealth Land Rights Act. The Executive Management Committee has 9 members, including the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman. The Committee meets more than 20 times a year and is primarily responsible for operational matters. The full Tiwi Land Council meets six times a year and is responsible for making strategic decisions about the islands. Tiwi people want to play a strong role in the management and development of resources on their land and representation on the Tiwi Land Council and Executive Management Committee ensures this happens.
Tiwi Land Council current membership
Tiwi Executive Management Committee current membership