Anthropologists play an important role in Native Title cases in Australia, providing expert evidence in the form of reports and sometimes testimony to the court for both applicant and respondent parties.
I outline some of the difficulties faced by anthropologists as well as those who commission them for this role. I set out some of the fundamental requirements that develop from the Native Title Act and subsequent court decisions and how this should determine the questions an anthropologist should be asked to consider. Since anthropologists often base their expert views on field data, the nature of field work and the relationships and their implications developed during its conduct are discussed.
The role of expert also evokes ethical issues on occasion while the use of early texts and their application to Native Title questions raises further practical matters. As evidentiary material, the writing of an expert report requires consideration of issues relevant to its admissibility and thus its ultimate usefulness to the court. Finally, I examine how anthropologists may be involved and contribute to non-litigated Native Title outcomes.