Author Archives: cweb

Interview with Dr James Rose of the University of Melbourne

In this interview, I discussed the importance of oral histories and geospatial data in our research project. We also collaborated with another colleague to gather archival information to support our findings. Luckily, in Southeast Australia, we had access to a wealth of archival ethnographic data, which was a luxury for our research. We meticulously organized all the collected data into a relational database, using unique codes to track any changes in names or spellings. This level of research capacity was not common, but it received positive responses when presented at conferences. The host mentioned a similar process in South Australia and how time-consuming it can be.

I explained that we made a decision to prioritize this research by utilizing our internal staff, which allowed for more flexibility and dedication to the project. We then discussed the Gamilaraay case, which went to trial, and the overwhelming evidence we presented regarding the living cultural practices of Indigenous populations. In smaller communities, oral evidence holds more weight, and formal models are not as crucial to meet the necessary threshold for recognition.

CNTA Annual Conference Program 2024

Let’s Talk: Unexpected Challenges in the Native Title Environment
8-9 February 2024 Adelaide
Venue: Lincoln College
North Adelaide

7 February: Pre-conference Site visit to SA Museum Archives.
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Two groups: 9.30am and 11.00am. Meet the group in the Science Centre courtyard. Entry to the building is via a swipe card. So please gather first.

Day 1

This is our first CNTA annual conference since 2021. Unexpected shifts occurring in the native title landscape, the most critical of which are threats to workforce sustainability. This conference will focus on this, as well as other unpredicted factors at play impacting, in combination, on our practice and the advancement of native title outcomes.

8.30-9.00: Meet and Greet
9.00-9.30: Introduction to Conference themes (Directors)
9.30-10.00: Keynote Address: Kevin Smith President NNTT. The Native Title Workforce landscape
10.00-10.30: What does the survey data say? CNTA (Julie)

10.30-11.00: Morning Tea

11.00-11.45: Rethinking the workforce landscape –
Amy Usher YMAC Research, Country, and Culture Services Manager (workforce integration)
Wendy Asche Research Manager NLC (internal professional development)
Emma King Research Manager NQLC (change management)

11.45-12.30: Break out- what can you do? (small group discussion and strategizing)

12.30-1.30: Lunch

1.30-3.00: Three workshop options: please choose 1 of the three options below.

Dayne O’Meara (NLC staff genealogist) Creating effective genealogies: What comes after identification of apical ancestors in native title research? Flowchart traditional ownership vs ongoing ethnographic engagement
In this workshop I focus on practical skills and advice in relation to unexpected challenges that often arise in the collection, management, and use of genealogical data by anthropologists working under native title or land rights legislation in Australia.
I reflect on the 50 years of primary genealogical data held by the Northern Land Council (NLC) for the top end of the Northern Territory, but balance this with group activities in genealogy drawing/interpretation, including discussion with workshop attendees, to share cross-jurisdictional experiences.
Discussion topics may include:
• expanding group membership over time
• different perspectives on adoption and succession
• reconciling diverse oral and documentary sources
• record-keeping practices; and issues raised by attendees.

Emily Sexton (PBC consultant) Conflict in corporate translation: A case study of native title corporations, authority, family, and workplace safety.
This workshop poses a case study of the intersection between native title corporations, and conflicts of inherent and imposed authority structures. It explores the implications for corporate function while practically addressing the challenges this poses to individuals and workplace safety.

Belinda Liebelt (SANTS Research Manager) and Craig Elliot (Consultant Anthropologist).
‘Native title compensation research: fieldwork and reporting practicalities’

Anthropologists working in the compensation space are operating at the frontier of native title anthropological practice as they navigate the complexities and challenges of an emerging practice. Compensation research involves a combination of sensitivities, confidentiality / legal privilege requirements. This workshop is a space to work through some of the practicalities involved in native title compensation work in a South Australian context, but which we believe are also applicable nationally.

• Research – understanding the brief, what are compensable acts and compensable parcels, understanding dates of extinguishment, relationship between continuity of connection and loss, land use changes over time and linking these to compensable acts, using historic maps and records.

• Fieldwork – exploring loss due to specific compensable acts vs loss as a result of broader (non-compensable) colonial processes, types of loss to consider (i.e. loss of access/privacy/resources/control, what are the correlations between changes to land forms and waterscapes and destruction of cultural heritage, denied cultural and religious responsibilities, impacts on cultural transmission of beliefs and practices and duty to look after country, sites, Dreamings and resources), documenting statements and metaphors of ‘emotional distress and suffering’ during fieldwork, acute loss events and particulars vs slow and cumulative generational loss, duty of care for experts and claimants when documenting inter-generational loss with native title claimants

• Reporting – structuring reports, assessing the diminution of rights and interests vs describing cultural losses, are we equipped to ‘measure’ loss, distress and anxiety? Duty of care when reporting findings back to claimants.

3.00-3.30: Afternoon tea

3.30-4.30: Panel session. New and Emerging challenges-

Yvette Bradley (Senior Policy Officer, Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation): Community Aspirations and Policy Challenges
This discussion focuses on the challenge of connecting the aspirations of the community and the community’s engagement with Government policy and legislation. Prescribed Body Corporates (PBCs) cannot rely on State and Commonwealth legislation and their mechanisms to look after Country and Culture. This is evident from recent events such as the destruction of Juukan Gorge and the repeal of WA’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act (2021). Neither is agreement-making the answer.

How do PBC’s pursue community projects in the face of challenges that interrupt this path? My focus is on strategies for solutions – despite these challenges.

Kevin Murphy (Research manager CYLC) The discourse of First Nations Sovereignty and the practice of Native Title Anthropology.
Details to come

Catherine Wohlan (consultant anthropologist): Let’s talk! Unexpected challenges in the native title landscape: performative behaviour in disputation
A senior Aboriginal man gave me a good telling off in a carpark after a native title meeting, saying, ‘you’ve got your degree, I’ve got my law, what have these young people got? They’ve got nothing’. His rage sprang from conflict in a meeting and the expectation that native title should deliver outcomes to the next generation.

Anthropologists are generally required at meetings, where disagreement, personal attacks, argument and even violence can occur. The reasons behind angry exchanges and challenging behaviour are complex.
Coping in circumstances when meetings become dysfunctional and personal abuse may rely on understanding the cause for various behaviours. One understanding is that behaviour stems from performative actions which serve to assert ownership, efforts to control interaction and the issues in question. In this talk, I give examples before discussing how disputation might be successfully negotiated.

7.00pm: Conference Dinner (venue to TBA)

Day 2

Day 2 Practice Issues

9.00-9.45: Erica Taylor (Director, Learning & Development ExpertsDirect): Being an expert in Court; who decides the rights and interests?

Respondents David Martin (consultant anthropologist) and Andrew Collett (Barrister)

9.45-10.30: Richard Martin (Senior Lecturer Anthropology, School of Social Sciences, University of Queensland): Anthropological concepts of loss in compensation

10.30-11.00: Morning tea

11.00-11.45: Francesca Merlan (Professor Emeritus ANU): Let’s Talk! About disputes, Expected and Unexpected:
Native title can be a new arena for disputes and animosities of long-standing, sharpening and altering their terms, and often persisting post-determination.
What kinds of approaches can we as anthropologists take when we know of their existence and persistence?
What have we learned in this regard? Examples and discussion.

11.45-12.30: Jon Altman (Professor Emeritus ANU): After the referendum: Between the elusive promise of Closing the Gap and the reality of native title

During the Voice referendum debate, both Yes and No advocates relied heavily on the rhetoric of Closing the Gap to prosecute their cases for advisory representation. Yes campaigners argued that a Voice to Parliament would assist in addressing socio-economic disparities between Indigenous and other Australians as two sub-populations. Hearing directly from First Nations people about diversity and difference, aspirations and needs would make a vital impact on policy making and implementation.

No campaigners, on the other hand, were open to hearing about needs and aspirations at local and regional levels but were outright hostile to the idea that a national body embedded in the constitution was needed. Their campaign emphasised sameness not difference, while also acknowledging in policy reasoning that the greatest need was in remote Australia. Advocates of both sides of the debate also had a great deal to say about expenditure by Australian governments on Indigenous citizens, and almost nothing to say about the special citizenship rights of those with native title rights and interests.

In this presentation I examine elusive promises in the referendum debate of socioeconomic sameness, perhaps, one day; and the often different lifeway opportunities available to those with native title rights and interests (here I also include those with statutory land rights).
My presentation offers a critical engagement with the Closing the Gap framework that has dominated the policy arena for the past decade and a half. I end with a reflection upon native title law and practice and offer some practical recommendations that would simultaneously allow sameness and difference in First Nations lifeways, while simultaneously addressing abject poverty.

12.30-1.30: Lunch

1.30-2.15: Ian Sweeney (Manager, Community Development Unit Central Land Council); The highs and lows of collaboration
Managing the patchwork dynamics of collaboration in community development. An overview of the positives and negatives behind collaboration with government where differing approaches can determine the impact of the community’s work.

2.15-3.00: Tahnee Innes (Anthropologist CYLC) and Petronella Vaarzon-Morel (CNTA Director):
First Nations staff – how can we address their professional development in native title?
Review of CNTA’s initial workshop with First Nations native title staff and further thinking.

3.00-3.30: Afternoon Tea

3.30- 4.30: Facilitator:Courtney Boag (FNLRS Victoria) Small Group Discussion and Review
Your view of the critical unexpected challenges ahead – including reflections on the CNTA workforce survey trends plus issues raised over past the 2 days.

CNTA Anthropology Employment Survey results

CNTA/Anthroprospective collaboration at Queen’s college, University of Melbourne.

CNTA again joined with the Anthroprospective to continue with the theme of Ethics, Advocacy and Expertise at Queen’s College. See the attached program and the presentation by Ms Erica Taylor of Expertsdirect.



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Collingwood House/CNTA Collaboration

On the 9th of September 2023, Anthroprospective and the Centre for Native Title Anthropology teamed up to host an evening for close to 50 people for discussion and learning as we explored the intersection of ethics, advocacy, and expertise in the field of anthropology in Australia. An esteemed panel of experts delved into the complexities of the discipline and shared insights on how anthropology can contribute to important social issues facing our society today. Panellists were Dr James Rose, Professor David Trigger (CNTA Director) Debora Lanzeni and Natalie Araujo. Courtney Boag conceived, organised and facilitated the event at Collinwood House in Johnston Street Collingwood.

The event catered to a broad audience of academics in the field of social science and members of the wider society who have little to no understanding of anthropology and the diverse roles that anthropologists play. In presenting to such a diverse audience, our intention was to promote the discipline widely as a way of leveraging the value of the social sciences in a time of crisis in Australia for disciplines such as anthropology, often under threat in the university system. The discussion led to a stimulating conversation around what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world.

Following the end of formal discussions, guests enjoyed a beautiful grazing table supplemented by a choice in wine.



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