If you want to visit or drive through Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, you must have a permit. So get organised and make sure applying for a permit is part of your itinerary planning.
About the permit system
A permit is written permission to visit the private land of a family or group of Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal land is private land that has a special meaning to its owners who protect it and its sacred sites. Like any landowner, Aboriginal people have the legal right to grant or refuse permission to enter or travel through their land.
The permit system helps to protect and preserve the privacy and culture of Aboriginal communities, look after the natural environment and keep visitors safe. Permits are issued only if the traditional owners grant approval.
There are different permits for tourists, transit travellers, workers, researchers and media. Visitor permits do not allow visitors to fish, hunt or carry out commercial activities, including filming, on Aboriginal land.
Sometimes permits are not granted or are cancelled. This could be because of a death or a funeral, if a ceremony is being conducted in the area, or weather or road conditions.
How to organise a permit
Plan ahead – it takes at least 10 days to process an application for a permit. If permission is granted, you collect the permit from a designated Land Council office. The issue of a permit is discretionary and may be revoked at any time.
The Northern Land Council manages the permit system on behalf of the traditional owners of land in the Top End. This includes Arnhem Land, but does not include the Tiwi Islands.
The Tiwi Land Council manages permits for the Tiwi Islands (Bathurst Island and Melville Island).
Permits to go into all areas south of Tennant Creek are administered by the Central Land Council.