It is widely acknowledged that native title agreements have the capacity to generate significant positive social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits for Indigenous communities. If this is so, why are such outcomes the exception and not the rule? Why is it that the obvious passion and commitment driving many negotiators representing native title claimants routinely fails to deliver such outcomes. Indeed, outcomes from agreements often fall far below traditional owners’ expectations.
It is not controversial that agreements with outcomes relating to employment and training and business development, together with financial payments, can be instrumental in securing sustainable economic benefits for Indigenous communities. Studies on the social impact of negotiated agreements in the resource sector show that dealing with environmental management and cultural heritage issues is crucial in minimising negative cultural and social impacts and protecting Indigenous cultural integrity and social vitality.
The aim of this paper is to focus broadly on the process issues faced by claimant groups and their negotiating teams throughout the varied phases of a native title negotiation. It is hoped that the scoping of such issues may assist in the design of future training for native title negotiators and that this, in turn, will assist native title groups to mobilise and engage their available negotiating power.