Indigenous fund benefits
The Indigenous Land Corporation will be empowered to acquire water assets for traditional owners under proposed legislation to establish a multibillion-dollar investment fund.
A package of three Bills supporting the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Future Fund passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, October 25, with bipartisan support.
The existing land account’s management, which held $2 billion as of July, would be transferred from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to the Future Fund Board of Guardians.
Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said the land account did not generate returns needed to sustain CPI-indexed payments to the ILC.
“The new fund will place this important indigenous endowment fund on a sustainable footing so it can deliver on its purpose — to provide long-term funding to the Indigenous Land Corporation to purchase assets on behalf of indigenous Australians,” he said.
“Land account investments are restricted to low-earning cash and cash-like products.
“Moving the investment responsibility of the fund to the future fund board will allow these funds to be invested in a broader range of financial assets, increasing the likelihood of more sustainable returns.”
Mr Wyatt said the proposed legislation would enhance the Commonwealth’s ability to make payments to the Indigenous Land Corporation.
The other major reform under the package would see the ILC’s remit expanded to acquisition of water-related rights for fresh and saltwater country.
ILC chairman Eddie Fry said the changes would create something similar to a sovereign wealth fund.
“It is a long time coming to be able to take those capital funds in a land account and put them into an investment mandate which will see it grow well enough to allow the ILC to expand its activities,” he said.
“At a baseline level one of the things indigenous Australians are seeking to do is to preserve, protect and own land and water as one parcel.”
Mr Fry said the changes could open up opportunities such as commercial fishing and conservation for traditional owner groups.