Native title: community engagement, empowerment and self-determination

Thursday, 2 June 2016
Jim Cyngler
Jim Davis

Conflict resolution processes have primarily been used to assist those in conflict to bring disputes and often the relationships to an end. Compromise based or problem solving processes deal primarily with material issues and often see ongoing relationships damaged. Contemporary conflict transformation methods, which I use in my work with traditional owners, strengthen decision making capabilities and responsibility and provide real opportunities for good future relationships.

When Native Title Determinations are made by the Federal Court, traditional owners come together within Prescribed Body Corporates (PBCs) formed to administer any entitlements that flow from the Determinations. Operation of the PBCs has sometimes been difficult and led to a breakdown of community rather than to community cohesion and strength.

This paper looks at the role of dialogue and listening processes in developing community engagement, empowerment and self-determination with a PBC and traditional owner environment. It will explore how contemporary understandings of communication and conflict transformation can support traditional decision making processes. Through this bottom up approach traditional owners can take ownership of community decision making, capability building and implementation to encourage self-determination.

This paper will identify the conceptual framework which supports and enables community engagement, empowerment and self-determination through some examples of the practical implementation of these ideas.