The Aboriginal Land Rights Amendment (Housing) Bill 2011 passed through the NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council on 19 October 2011, without any amendments.
The Bill aims to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 to make it easier for the Boards of Local Aboriginal Land Councils (“LALCs”) to enter into and manage residential tenancy agreements in their areas which are for a period of less than 3 years.
The Bill amends section 42E of the Act, so that short-term residential tenancy agreements (defined as per the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 as a fixed term agreement of less than 3 years or a periodic agreement) entered into by LALCs are expressly excluded from needing NSWALC approval as a land dealing under the Act. Section 52G is also amended, so that a LALC does not need a resolution of its voting members to give approval to any dealings or agreements relating to short-term residential tenancy agreements. Instead, under an amendment to s62, boards of LALCs will have express powers to enter into short-term tenancy agreements, manage them and terminate them. Alternatively, these powers could be delegated through section 72. The powers will have to be exercised in accordance with the LALC’s community, land and business plan.
The Bill also provides for these amendments to apply in the future to existing short-term residential tenancy agreements.
The second reading speech of the Bill reveals that it was introduced in the wake of the Land and Environment Court’s recent decision of Woods v Gandangara LALC; Thatcher v Gandangara LALC  NSWLEC 42 (http://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/action/PJUDG?jgmtid=151055). It aims to relieve the administrative burden on LALCs managing their housing stock from having to obtain member’s approval each time a short term residential tenancy is entered into, varied or terminated.
The Bill is now before the NSW Legislative Assembly for consideration. Further information, and tracking of the Bill, can be obtained from: http://www.Parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/nswBills.nsf/131a07fa4b8a041cca256e610012de17/afcb5ee6a8f73836ca257926001a4001?OpenDocument.