Recently back from the AIATSIS National Native Title conference hosted by the Yawuru people on their traditional lands in Broome, we have been discussing the many excellent sessions and their impact.
The 2018 conference, titled Many Laws, One Land: legal and political co-existence was timely as this year marks 25 years since the passing of the Native Title Act 1993. The conference provided many opportunities to hear about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land owner experiences and learn how to work together to share knowledge and deal with challenges.
Our presentation on raising the bar on Governance within Indigenous organisations stimulated a lot of discussions. A big thank you to our co-presenters, who are experienced Traditional Owner directors, Jahna Cedar, Jason Masters and Gordon Cole - pictured below. You can find more photos on the Gallery page.
Our top take-outs from this conference are listed below.
- Attaining Bamu Liang - Healthy Living - should be a fundamental goal for all people, particularly Indigenous people. Derived from recognition of language, land and people it builds strong families and relationships and a strong sense of identity and self-worth. It is a source of self-empowerment and well-being.
- The Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) is an imperfect legislative instrument but it has also been the catalyst for some important determinations of country and land rights in the 25 years since it was introduced. The current appeal in the Pilbara native title determination in Yindjibarndi v FMG, if decided in FMG’s favour, could have a serious impact on the interpretation of exclusive possession.
- The Indigenous participants resolved to support the Uluru Statement of the Heart and seek an Indigenous voice in the Federal Parliament. There was also a call for a National Indigenous Representative Body to negotiate a treaty and form the Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. First nations people need to be heard directly by law makers.
- The WA Government announced its plan to introduce a statutory Aboriginal Advocate reporting directly to the WA Parliament to encourage more accountability between the State government and the Aboriginal community.
- Around Australia, many Indigenous groups are collaborating in collective Indigenous regional forums to share knowledge, build networks and amplify and strengthen the Indigenous voice in negotiations with government, stakeholders and third parties. Priority is increasingly being given by governments and corporate bodies to regions that negotiate as a group as there is a political preference for region-wide governance outcomes.
- The question of a treaty in Australia is a fraught one. There have been attempts at treaty negotiation (in Victoria and South Australia) and some characterise the WA Noongar Settlement as a form of a treaty, with a negotiated package of benefits for the surrender of native title rights.
- Water rights is a pressing and increasingly important focus of Indigenous Australians. Indigenous groups from around Australia are seeking to negotiate with State and Federal governments for more formalised influence and rights over the use and exploitation of water ways and rivers. Regional collaboration to strategically negotiate with government is occurring in relation to the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley and Murray Darling Basin in Central Victoria.
- Ownership and control over the mapping of not just environmental but also well-being, cultural and economic data is vital for Indigenous groups to make empowered and informed decisions and negotiate with third parties without compromising values and traditional law and cultural practices. Informed assessment of the impact of projects on these areas will lead to integrated growth strategies, sustainable natural resource development and empowered investment.
- Indigenous Australians don’t want a deficit discourse - you empower people with a positive vision. Self-determination and empowerment comes from an understanding of what is possible, not what hasn’t been done.
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