No Treaties: Native title, Noongars, nationhood and numbers

Tuesday, 5 June 2018
Dr Stuart Bradfield
Glen Kelly

Regional agreements… remember them?
If the first decade following the advent of the NTA was about finding legal clarity, the second was about exploring new possibilities. Despite a plethora of mostly small scale deals, comprehensive ‘treaty style’ agreements have not eventuated. Or have they?
On one view, the NTA has not facilitated the recognition Aboriginal peoples hoped for, but a more positive reading suggests the NTA has been creatively used by Aboriginal people to successfully push for recognition of distinct cultural – and political – identities.
While state governments in South Australia and Victoria have opened discussions towards treaty, perhaps the conservative WA government has already concluded one with the Noongar people of SW WA. An agreement made possible by, but necessarily moving beyond, the NTA.

This paper reflects on the difficulty Australia has had reconciling many laws with one land. It focuses more positively on two recent examples which show ways the NTA can be used as leverage for Aboriginal people. Firstly, the Noongar Native Settlement, described by some as akin to a treaty. And secondly the emerging move towards asserting ‘data sovereignty’ – Aboriginal led community survey and planning processes emerging out of native title agreements.