AGS assisted the Government with a range of Indigenous policy initiatives this year, including development of the Alice Springs town camp subleases, drafting and advice on Indigenous land use agreements and advising the Torres Strait Regional Authority on a number of funding agreements.

Alice Springs town camp subleases

Since July 2008, AGS has worked closely with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) to assist the Government to acquire secure tenure over the Alice Springs town camps in order to support significant housing and infrastructure investment. Chief General Counsel Robert Orr QC and Kelly Scott provided advice on various issues associated with the town camps. With the assistance of officers in Adelaide and Darwin, they have also drafted town camp subleases and underleases for the town camps.

AGS also acted for the FaHCSIA Minister in 2 sets of proceedings commenced in the Federal Court by a town camp resident. These proceedings were handled by Simon Daley, our National Leader, Litigation and Dispute Management, with assistance from Brooke Griffin. One set of proceedings sought an order of review and a writ of prohibition in relation to the possible acquisition of the land of the town camps. In the other set of proceedings, the resident sought declarations, injunctions and a writ of prohibition in relation to the proposal by various town camp Housing Associations to grant 40-year subleases to the Commonwealth (through the Executive Director of Township Leasing).

As a consequence of the Federal Court's decision to dismiss these applications, the Commonwealth has now entered into 40-year subleases with the Housing Associations which hold the headleases for the town camps. This has enabled the Government to proceed with the significant housing and infrastructure investment component of the Alice Springs Transformation Plan.

Indigenous land use agreements

Cultana Expansion Area

Since 2005, AGS has been assisting the Department of Defence in a project to obtain an area of land between Port August and Whyalla in South Australia – the Cultana Expansion Area (CEA) – to be used for training Australian Defence Force personnel. The intention is that Defence acquire and surrender to South Australia several pastoral leases that comprise the CEA, and that South Australia then grant Defence a lease over the CEA.

The project involves many complex legal issues, in particular complex land acquisition, mining and native title issues. The primary activities that AGS has been involved in this year include negotiations of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with native title claimants, negotiations for a lease from South Australia, and advising Defence on acquisition strategy.

The core AGS team working on the CEA Project comprised Alexandra Hall and Leah Lyons from AGS's Commercial practice who provided day-to-day support to Defence, assisted by Henry Addison in Canberra in relation to commercial matters and by Robert Orr QC and Nick Wood from the Office of General Counsel in relation to land acquisition, native title and statutory interpretation issues.

Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope

Australia is bidding to host the international Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope (SKA). Robert Orr QC, Peter Jeffery, Susan Reye, Greg Prutej, Nick Wood and Kelly Scott have been advising the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) on various legal issues associated with the establishment of the SKA.

With the assistance of commercial lawyers Alexandra Hall and Leah Lyons, AGS assisted DIISR throughout the negotiation of an ILUA involving the Wajarri Yamatji people, the State of Western Australia, the Western Australian Minister for Lands, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Commonwealth and the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation. The ILUA enabled the grant of a lease to CSIRO to establish the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. The Observatory will house the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder, which will be a stand-alone, world class telescope capable of being scalable to be incorporated into the SKA.

Funding programs, Torres Strait Regional Authority

Peter Kidd advised the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) in relation to its requests for applications for Community Development Employment Projects and legal services funding. Kathryn Grimes, Joanna Piva and Fleur Katsnelson also advised TSRA on the funding agreements for these application processes as well as a number of funding agreements for other TSRA programs, including its Safe and Healthy Communities program. These agreements use funding templates for use in all Australian Government Indigenous funding programs.

AGS also provided 2 days of training on grants and funding to TSRA at its premises on Thursday Island.

This is an extract from the 2009–10 AGS annual report