Banking the credit of community ownership – the Victorian experience

Wednesday, 7 June 2017
Jeremy Clark
Janine Coombs

This paper examines the potential for native title organisations with limited asset bases to engage in successful commercial activity through joint venture enterprises. 

Firstly, we describe the development of the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations as a state ‘peak-body’ of local native title organisations. We then discuss the Federation’s program of economic and commercial development both for its members and as an entity in itself, including the establishment of its incorporated joint ventures; Barpa Constructions Pty Ltd and On Country Heritage and Consulting Pty Ltd and commentary on the significance of the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Procurement Policy as a factor in this process.

The final section of the paper draws upon the experience of the Federation to examine how the legitimacy bestowed by the community ownership of native title organisations’ businesses creates a market advantage which is attractive to joint venture partners and can more than offset and deficit in terms of monetary resources available for investment in a newly established enterprise.

The paper concludes by reflecting that the market advantage bestowed by community ownership may well be a product of the racism inherent in Australian society’s hostility to wealthy Indigenous individuals.