Changes to the APY Land Rights Act 1981


In 2013, the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, the Honourable Ian Hunter MLC, commissioned an independent limited review of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981.

The Review was set up to look at possible ways to improve governance on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, including possible changes to the timing and way that elections are structured, as well as the composition of the APY Executive Board. You can read the terms of reference for this Review here.PIC

The Independent Review Panel, was chaired by the Hon Dr Robyn Layton AO QC. The members of the panel also included the Hon. John Hill MP; Mr Harry Miller, Chief Executive, Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service; and Ms April Lawrie-Smith, Executive Director, Aboriginal Health Division, SA Health.

The Panel’s consultation process included eight visits to the APY Lands, with 24 meetings between 2013 and 2014. The findings and recommendations from these meetings were presented in a final report of the Limited Review of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 to Minister Hunter. You can read Minister Hunter’s media release about the final report here.

The current Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, the Hon. Kyam Maher MLC, has used the recommendations from the limited review as the basis for drafting amendments to the APY Act, that are reflected in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2015.

Proposed changes to the APY Act

The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2015 includes changes that will affect the APY Executive Board governance and administration and electoral processes.

There are seven key amendments that are proposed in the Bill. These relate to the following areas:

  1. Gender balance on the Executive Board

The APY Executive Board on the APY lands will consist of one elected male and one elected female from each electorate – Sections 5, 7(1), 26(4) and 26(12).

  1. Having a reduced number of electorates

The number of APY Lands electorates will be reduced from ten to seven.

According to information provided on the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation’s website, this is the list of current and proposed electorates:


Current: 10 Electorates

(Schedule 3 Part 2 Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981)

  1. Pipalyatjara/Kalka 161
  2. Watarru 42
  3. Kanypi/Nyapari/Angatja 109
  4. Amata/Tjurma 449
  5. Kaltjiti/Irintata/Watinuma 241
  6. Anilalya/Turkey Bore 119
  7. Pukatja/Yunyarinyi 441
  8. Mimili 247
  9. Iwantja 284
  10. Amuruna/Railway Bore/Witjintitja/Wallatinna 14

Proposed: 7 Electorates

  1. Pipalyatjara/Kalka (as currently) 161
  2. Kanypi/Nyapari/Angatja/Watarru (new) 151
  3. Amata/Tjurma (as currently) 449
  4. Kaltjiti/Irintata/Watinuma (as currently) 241
  5. Pukatja/Yunyarinyi/Anilalya/Turkey Bore (new) 560
  6. Mimili (as currently) 247
  7. Iwantja/Amuruna/Railway Bore/Witjintitja/Wallatinna (new) 298

Total APY population: 2,107

Voting Age: 1,351 (64%)

*Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census Data

The Bill states that the composition of the electorates will be set out in the regulations that form part of the new legislation – Section 26(4). The constitution of the electorates for the first election will be determined following the consultation process for the Bill – Sch 1 cl 3(1).


  1. The number of members of the APY Executive Board

There will be up to 14 members on the APY Executive Board, with a man and a woman being elected from each of the seven electorates – Section 7(1).

If no-one nominates or no votes are cast, the Minister may require a supplementary election – Section 26(18). If a supplementary election is not held, or fails, then the Executive Board can be constituted of less than 14 members – Section 7(1).


  1. APY Executive member eligibility criteria

Criteria that allow someone to be eligible to nominate for office as of member of the Executive Board are defined in Section 26(7). Anangu must be 18 years or older; have lived in the community for which they seek election for at least one month prior to the election; have not been found guilty of any “serious offences” in the last 10 years (“Serious offences” are defined in Section 9(4) and include offences against the person, sexual offences, serious trespass, dishonesty, serious drug offences, offences against APY Act and by-laws).

The Returning Officer declares candidates provisionally elected. Provisionally elected candidates are required to obtain a criminal history report and provide it to the Returning Officer (s.26(14)) who confirms (s.26(15)(1)) or revokes (s.26(16)) the provisional declaration.

When a majority of provisionally elected candidates are confirmed, the Minister fixes a day when the elected Members of the Executive Board take office – s.26(17). A casual vacancy is created if an Executive member is found guilty of a serious offence – s.9(1).


  1. Timeframes for elections, with more certainty about when elections occur

APY elections will be conducted every 3 years in the period between 1st of May to 31st July in the third year following the previous election – s.7(4).

The first election will be within 6 months of passing of the Bill – Sch 1 cl. 3(d).


  1. Establishing a panel of conciliators

The Minister may establish a panel of conciliators, after consultation with APY, for the purposes of resolving disputes on the APY Lands – s.22.


  1. A changed role for the Director of Administration

The Director of Administration’s title is changed throughout the Act, to the ‘Director of Anangu Engagement’.

The Director of Anangu Engagement has additional functions to liaise with Community Councils and the Executive Board and keep them informed about each other’s activities – s.14.

The Director of Anangu Engagement is subject to the direction and control of the General Manager – s.13.


The Consultation Process and Submissions

As indicated in the introduction above, the Independent Review Panel’s consultation process included eight visits to the APY Lands, with 24 meetings between 2013 and 2014. There was a Special General Meeting held on the APY Lands on 20th and 21st of February 2014 to discuss the findings and recommendations of the APY Land Rights Act Review. Information from these consultations was included in the Panel’s final report that was submitted to Minister Hunter.

Between 8 October 2013 and 14 November 2013, according to the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation website, four written submissions were received as part of the public consultation process. Submissions were received from:

  • Anangu Ku Arts
  • Department of Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy, (DMITRE)
  • The Palya Fund
  • Sam Osborne.

Submissions are available upon request from DSD-AAR.  Email with the name of the submission you require.


Consultation on draft Bill and next steps

Following the consultation process and submission of the Final Report, staff of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation in the Department of State Development (DSD-AAR) undertook consultation sessions, focusing on the suggested changes to the APY Land Rights Act that have been proposed in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2015.

These consultations on the draft Bill were undertaken from December 2015 to May 2016. According to the DSD-AAR website, twenty two feedback sessions were held and took place on the APY Lands, in Alice Springs, Port Augusta and Adelaide.

The DSD-AAR website indicates that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation will consider feedback from the community consultations and submissions prior to introducing any amendments to the APY Land Rights Act 1981 into Parliament.

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.