Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) actively undertakes research on issues that impact on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The AIATSIS Native Title Research Unit (NTRU) was established 26 years ago following the High Court’s Mabo decision as a partnership between the Commonwealth Indigenous affairs portfolio agency and AIATSIS.
AIATSIS supports the native title sector and conducts research and analysis of the law, policy and practice of native title. It is on this basis that AIATSIS makes the following submissions to the Inquiry into the Opportunities and Challenges of the Engagement of Traditional Owners in the Economic Development of Northern Australia.
- The involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is necessary for the successful design of policy and programs and in order to define the indicators of success and in setting targets for measuring achievement.
- Native title should be reformed to ease the time and resource burden on claimants, address the inequality of bargaining power, and strengthen rights and interests to ensure secure and certain property rights which allow native title holders to act with confidence.
- Indigenous knowledge is inherently valuable and forms the basis upon which many development opportunities can be formed. The value must be recognised and all strategies for economic development opportunities and capacity building must engage with the aspirations of traditional owners.
- It is imperative that legislation conferring land rights and native title be reformed to enable Indigenous people to take full advantage of the emerging environmental land management opportunities as a springboard for economic development.
- It is important for economic development to be firmly grounded on principles of self-determination and sustainable development, including varying degrees of self-government.
The involvement of Indigenous peoples is necessary for the successful design of policy and programs and also in order to define the indicators of success and in setting targets for measuring achievement. It is imperative that Indigenous groups are at the forefront of engagement to appropriately navigate the stated objectives of Indigenous self-determination including addressing inconsistencies and conflicts that have been generated in the past by poor historical design of policy and constantly changing policy frameworks. The design of the engagement process requires detail on how to obtain the views of Indigenous people to ensure that policy writers make culturally informed decisions.