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Case study: the returns process

Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) and Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation (RRKAC)

As a Returning Native Title Materials case study, AIATSIS is collaborating with Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) and Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation (RRKAC) to document their returns process.

YMAC has been developing a policy around the return of native title materials (or ROM) since 2013. Early ROMs included a redacted connection report to Nyangumarta traditional owners (TOs) and a redacted report plus selected audio and images to Ngarla TOs. 

Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation (RRKAC) is the registered native title body corporate (RNTBC) for Robe River Kuruma (RRK) native title determined areas. The RRK people have traditional rights to an area covering nearly 16, 000 square kilometres in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with over 10, 000 square kilometres recognised through two consent determinations.

YMAC and RRKAC started the process of negotiating the return of native title materials in 2017 and participated in several consultative meetings and two community workshops through 2018-19. In these workshops YMAC and RRKAC discussed what materials were available for return, what expectations community members have and how they want to use this material.

The NTRU research team held a two-day workshop in Perth with YMAC in May 2019. Discussions included YMAC’s Return of Material (ROM) policies and procedures, their ROM governance framework, archives and records management, legal obligations and issues, resourcing, funding and infrastructure, access and transfer and the use of databases.

To investigate the experience of the RNTBC with the returns process, NTRU team members visited the RRKAC office in Karratha on 18 - 20 October 2019. The research team interviewed RRKAC staff and members and a held a brief workshop with staff and the RRKAC Heritage Advisory Committee.

Since then RRKAC and their members have produced a Return of Research and Litigation Policy (RoRM) which was approved by the whole community at a RRKAC general meeting held in November 2019. YMAC subsequently returned native title materials to RRKAC in January 2020.


Project team

Christiane Keller

Last updated: 25 June 2021