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Case study: A digital approach

Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation

In 2014, the Federal Court formally recognised the native title claim of the Esperance Nyungar people and, as a result, the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (ETNTAC) was formed to represent the native title holders. Since then ETNTAC requested the return of their materials from the Goldfields Land and Sea Council (GLSC), the then Native Title Service Provider (NTSP) for the region. In June 2019, and before a return commenced, GLSC lost its funding and an administrator was appointed shortly after. 

GLSC held more than 900 archive boxes of material and 3.5 million digital files relating to the various claims it was involved in over the years. Of this significant cache of documents, recordings and digital files 91 boxes and 50,000 digital files were identified as associated to the Esperance Nyungar claim. These materials are crucial to ETNTAC’s future strategic plans and in asserting their rights to control and use their cultural knowledge.

The data from hard copy and digital files was combined and a digital forensic process was employed utilising specialised software. The digital forensic process searches and indexes all files with key search terms and provides a workable database for identifying and retrieving documents.

Attendees at the Digital returns scoping meeting in Perth, November 2019. Left to right: Jasmine Tearle, Jeffrey Paul, Helen Wright. Anthony Beven, David Lanagan, Andrew Burke, Henry Dabb, Aldrin Khaw, Tahnee Adamson, Gail Reynolds-Adamson, Fiona Blackburn.

After an initial meeting in November 2019 with representatives from ETNTAC, AIATSIS, the GLSC administrator, and a native title practitioner in Perth, AIATSIS has followed the returns process through interviews and email exchanges with ETNTAC and the administrator. The resulting case study report includes details about:

  • the digital forensic analysis approach
  • challenges of the returns process
  • the ETNTAC Native Title Materials Policy and Procedure.


Project team

Christiane Keller
Helen Wright

Last updated: 05 October 2021