Skip to main content

Returning native title materials

The native title system has produced a remarkable and unprecedented research effort, both in size and scope. It involves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group across the country.

The materials developed in support of native title claims are large, complex and of historical, cultural and economic value to current and future members of native title groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and to the nation more broadly. The management of these materials represents an ongoing challenge for native title groups and their representatives.

Related case studies

The native title claim materials include information on genealogies, languages, laws and customs and areas of significance and are subject to Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights. They provide an essential evidence base for future decision-making and are critical to; for example, effective governance, knowledge transmission to younger and future generations, cultural heritage protection, environmental conservation and land management. Vesting control of these materials in registered native title body corporates, also known as PBCs, will contribute to the independence and long-term sustainability of these organisations.

The Returning Native Title Materials (RNTM) project explores the use of materials collected through the native title process, including appropriate management, storage and return to native title groups.

This project investigates existing efforts among Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers (NTRB/SPs), PBCs and others to manage, return, receive and use native title materials.

Resources on the best practice for related governance, archival, infrastructure and legal issues along with learnings from NTRB/SPs and PBCs who have engaged in a returns process are shared below.

The NTRU is partnering with NTRB/SPs, PBCs and research institutions, including Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, Robe Rive Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation, La Trobe University and Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, on a number of case studies. (listed above)

Land claim focus group participants, 2019. Photograph by Jeffery Paul.

Anthropologist’s archive spanning more than 40 years. Photograph by Daniel Vachon.


Further reading

Project team

Christiane Keller
Kieren Murray
Toni Bauman
David Parsons