Case study description:
In 2014, the Federal Court formally recognised the Native Title claim of the Esperance Nyungar people in Western Australia. During that claim’s process, research material used for the case were held by the Goldfields Land and Sea Council (GLSC) which later went into administration. Following the recognition of Native Title, the Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (ETNTAC) requested the return of the materials held by GLSC. The National Indigenous Australia Agency (NIAA), asked AIATSIS to assist in coordinating the return of these materials to ETNTAC with the current administrators of GLSC, Grant Thornton.
GLSC holds more than 900 archive boxes of material and 3.5 million digital files relating to various claims it was involved in over the years. Of this significant cache of documents, recordings and information, 72 boxes have so far been identified as belonging to the Esperance Nyungar claim, as well as 15,000 digital files. These materials must be transferred to ETNTAC before 30 June 2020 when Grant Thornton will cease its administrative role at GLSC. The research materials are crucial to ETNTAC’s future strategic plans and development of educational and cultural revitalisation material.
A meeting was held in Perth, WA on the 11 November 2019 to co-design a process for the transfer of the identified material from GLSC to ETNTAC. In attendance were representatives from AITSIS, Grant Thornton, ETNTAC as well as native title practitioners. The group discussed issues, timeframes, responsibilities, and schedules relating to the transfer and a number of key resolutions were made regarding cataloguing, management and access. These decisions will be presented to the ETNTAC Board for approval before the end of 2019. AIATSIS will continue to document the process and provide advice and skills where necessary. This returns project forms one of a number of case studies by AIATSIS within the broader Return of Native Title Materials project.
Dr Belinda Burbidge Research Fellow, Native Title Research Unit, Belinda.Burbidge@aiatsis.gov.au