2021 CNTA Annual Conference: Leveraging Critical Impact through Collaboration

2021 CNTA Annual Conference: Leveraging Critical Impact through Collaboration

The theme of this conference focuses on the advantages that collaborations and partnerships potentially offer. Working with a partnership through networked institutional or organisational arrangements, even between individuals, can result in increased impact. The conference theme explores the challenges of this form of working, before highlighting opportunities and the work ahead. The conference  program can be downloaded from this site. CNTA has uploaded podcasts and select video casts of presentations from this workshop; links are below.

Day 1: The challenges

Opening address: Nic Peterson: Collaboration and Native Title

The Centre for Native Title Anthropology · Nic Peterson Address Feb – 2021

Downloadable text, Nic Peterson on collaboration in Native Title

Keynote Address:  Justice Debbie Mortimer: Re-evaluating the role of expert reports in Native Title proceedings

In this thought-provoking and challenging presentation, Justice Mortimer speaks of the need for a creative, collaborative approach to achieving better outcomes with expert reports, outlining how this might be realised, in the context of existing experience in Federal Court Native Title proceedings.

She outlines options which might alleviate and overcome current barriers and entrenched assumptions which stymie timely and efficient Native Title outcomes, most particularly for the Indigenous groups concerned. She suggests that before compensation claims become common, a reset in approaches to experts’ reports is crucia l- inboth  contested and consented determinations, and compensation claims.

Justice Mortimer’s address is provocative and challenges much received practice, for anthropologists and the lawyers who brief them alike.

It is available below both as a podcast sound file and a Youtube video, and also as a downloadable pdf file.


The Centre for Native Title Anthropology · Mortimer J – Revaluating the role of expert reports


Downloadable text of Justice Mortimer’s presentation

A further instance of Justice Mortimer’s reasoning which is of considerable significance to Native Title anthropologists, can be found in her joint judgment with Justice Colvin in Drury on behalf of the Nanda People vs State of Western Australia, [2020] FCAFC 69.

Of particular relevance in the Judgment of Mortimer and Colvin JJ is their consideration of The nature of native title from [13]. This includes:

  • At [14], clarifying that the statutory definition of native title in s 223 of the NTA reflects that “native title rights and interests have a physical or material aspect (the right to do something in relation to land and waters) and a cultural or spiritual aspect (the connection with the land or waters)”;
  • At [16], state that native title rights and interests may “reflect a different conception of property’ or ‘belonging’ to those familiar to the common law (that is, involve a translation into concepts cognizable to the common law; see also de Rose quoted at [23]);
  • At [17], state that there will usually be “a necessary and direct connection” between the extent of the common physical and spiritual connection under the  laws acknowledged and customs observed on the one hand, and the extent of the native title.
  • At [21], differentiate in legal terms between what anthropologists typically term clan-estate systems of law and custom from those found in ‘arid or semi-arid’ areas, and observe that the laws and customs from which native titles derive must necessarily be those of a society or group;
  • At [23], set out the legal distinction between ‘communal’, ‘group’ and individual’ native titles as set out in de Rose;
  • At [24]-[34], the Justices set out their reasoning regarding the legal concept of society, concluding that (depending on the facts) they accept that there is the possibility of separate societies, each with their own laws and customs which are the source of their separate connections to the same land. This is then expanded on in the section Overlapping native title from [35]-[37].

This latter will likely be the subject of lively discussion amongst native title anthropologists.

Downloadable copy of the Drury decision

Kevin Keeffe: Making things, right? Case studies in collaboration and conflict since the Mabo decision

In 1993, after the High Court Mabo decision, and before the Native Title Act was legislated, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation produced a policy guidance booklet called: Making Things Right: Reconciliation After the High Court’s Decision on Native Title. This paper reviews case studies in both conflict and collaboration in the native title landscape since that time and points to potential lessons for native title practice today.

Downloadable Kevin Keeffe presentation slides

Panel and Q&A: What are the opportunities for cross-institutional collaboration in native title?

Presentations by Chris Fewings, Registrar of the National Native Title Tribunal; Ophelia Rubinich Assistant Director for the Return of Cultural Heritage with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies; and David Allinson, Manager, Social and Indigenous Policy, Queensland Resources Council, followed by a question and answer session.


Day 2: NT compensation: achieving impact

Kevin Smith: The relevance, role, and response of native title to an expanding Indigenous Affairs landscape

In 2021, Traditional Owners will have to juggle the new era of compensation, complex legislative changes introduced by the Native Title Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, new regulatory requirements under the CATSI Act as well as the response to the Juukan Gorge Inquiry, Closing the Gap Agreement and Voice to Government agenda.

David Trigger: Issues and challenges in compensation research

In relation to ‘cultural loss’, what is the connection to country arising from ‘traditional law & custom’? Who are the right people (= ‘native title holders’) with that connection? A legal assumption may be that these issues are clear, arising from a determination. But given the significance of now recognised ‘collateral detrimental effects’ [Timber Creek HC, para 200], the dimensions of ‘effect’ in cultural terms is an emerging research task.

Downloadable (revised) David Trigger presentation slides


Day 2: Looking to the future

David Evans: Governance Issues for Trusts

Indigenous Land Used Agreements (ILUAs) entered by Aboriginal corporations normally lead to the establishment of trusts to receive royalty payments on behalf of Community members. These trusts can be complex in nature and are generally established with significant and onerous compliance requirements. Having sat on several Indigenous boards in the Pilbara WA as an independent director, David explores the issues and challenges for trust boards and prescribed body corporates (PBCs) in addressing the requirements contained in the trust deeds.


NTRB/NTSP Research Managers and anthropologists panel

Mia McCulloch: Getting up to speed for compensation claims

In this talk I begin with an overview of the context of compensation claims in Queensland since 2016 and the QSNTS approach to navigating this burgeoning area of native title work in the region. I finish by reflecting on some of the research focussed challenges to date as well as those I see to lay ahead, including the question of how to bring the wider in-house research cohort along with my own knowledge and capability developments in this area.

This involves three streams –

  • relevant judgements
  • reasoning and implications of these (legal)
  • understanding tenure types and what to look for in the Queensland context (tenure).

These 3 streams will be discussed relative to;

  1. the context of Compensation in SEQ
  2. QSNTS’ approach to preparing for compensation claims in SEQ, including
    challenges to date, and
  3. Networking with rep bodies and other relevant organisations:

Pascale Taplin (NQLC):

Pascale explores some of the complexities that arise in native title research from the perspective of an in-house anthropologist. She reflects on her experiences in the field and the office to problematize our practice, and refocus on the relationships we form with claimants and informants.

Emma King (NLC – Nhulunbuy): The devolution of applied anthropology in representative bodies and land councils

I discuss how applied anthropology has been progressively devalued by the native title (and land rights) sectors over the past 20 years, and the factors responsible for its demise.


Using income flows from Aboriginal lands for wider ‘community’ benefit

Ian Sweeney: Working collaboratively in Aboriginal-led community benefit based on income streams from Aboriginal lands

As Aboriginal groups become land holders in receipt of income from mining agreements, lease payments, and other sources, the challenges of how to manage, invest and transform futures with the income streams have emerged. Over the past 15 years, the Central Land Council’s Community Development program has learned much from its deeply collaborative engagement with Aboriginal groups in negotiating the challenges to achieving sustainable social and economic outcomes.

See also the interviews of Ian Sweeney and four CLC Community Develop anthropologists on the ‘Podcasts’ page of this website.


Annual Conference 2020

The CNTA 2020 Annual conference was held at Queen’s College, the University of Melbourne, on 6-7 February. Our theme this year was “Culture and Native Title: Making the most of Emerging Opportunities.”

As in previous years, CNTA placed a high value on opportunities for small group discussion of key issues in the practice of native title anthropology. For the first time, CNTA in 2020 was able to record presentations and to provide the matching power point. However, in some cases an audio recording was not made but a text or Powerpoint of the presentation is available.

Cameo Dalley: Women In Native Title

Dalley Presentation Women In Native Title.Pdf

Nic Peterson: Culture and Native Title

Peterson Culture And Native Title.Pdf

David Martin: Culture and the High Court in the ASIC vs Kobelt case

David Martin Presentation Culture And The Courts.Pdf

Di Smith: Anthropology’s Law – culture and native title compensation

Di Smith Presentation Compensation.Pdf

Sue Meaghan (DPC): Cultural Loss; issues for negotiation of compensation settlement

Sue Meaghan Dpc Cnta Conference – Cultural Loss.Pdf

Mini Panel session

Bruce Martin (ILSC): Land & Water: Aspiration & Opportunity

Bruce Martin Presentation llsc.Pdf

Kevin Smith: Native Title Compensation: NNTC Proposed Resolution Framework

Kevin Smith Presentation.Pdf

Kevin Keeffe: Redrawing the Regions: Opportunities and Challenges in the current policy landscape

Kevin Keefe Redrawing The Regions.Pdf

Susan Philips: Final Thoughts


Date & time

Thu 04 Feb 2021, 8.30am – Fri 05 Feb 2021, 5.30pm


Women’s College: University of Queensland


Julie Finlayson


Updated:  19 January 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications