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Wearing two hats: The conflicting governance roles of native title corporations and community/shire councils in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Publication date
Issues paper

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community governance can be greatly impacted by the nature of the land tenure held or managed by the community. The fragmented system of national and state regimes which provide grants or titles of land to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people has enabled a governance landscape where there are often overlapping rights to land. This creates a situation where relationships within an Indigenous community – and even within a traditional owner group – are competing for power and control. This is most notable with respect to how different community organisations compete for community funding, the durability of culturally appropriate governance structures and the taking of natural resources.

The ability of an Indigenous community to resolve potential conflicts, created by the recognition of native title and adapt to the post-determination landscape also impacts upon a communities’ ability to respond to external pressures such as land use planning, water management and government initiated tenure reform processes. Often these conflicts appear between Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate and community or local shire councils – who have historically played the role of land manager and program administrator. This paper looks at the role of cultural governance in supporting the recognition of Indigenous landholdings and the reasons that Indigenous landholdings, in their current form, have failed to be effective in adequately mobilising economic, social and cultural resources to achieve social, cultural, environmental and health benefits in remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia and Queensland.