Since late 2014 there has been much confusion and debate about the future of funding for Aboriginal communities and homelands/outstations, particularly in Western Australia and South Australia. Arguments over the financial responsibilities of Commonwealth and state/territory governments has occurred alongside ideological arguments over the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to reside on or near their country and to have access to basic services there. This represents the latest episode in a long-running debate in Australian Indigenous Affairs about homelands/outstations and the movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into larger, centralised communities.
The recent debate around the closure of Aboriginal communities raises important questions in relation to native title. Living on and having access to traditional country is fundamental to maintaining an ongoing connection to country which is central to native title. Rather than a lifestyle choice, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s presence on country is often described as a cultural commitment or obligation and it may also be a legal necessity in terms of native title.
This session provides an opportunity for an open discussion about the past, present and future of Aboriginal communities and their importance to Aboriginal people exercising and maintaining their native title rights and interests.