The returns process: Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) and Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation (RRKAC)

Project status: 

Case study description

Case study research is being conducted with several Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRBs) and Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) who either have transferred materials or are in the process of transferring materials.

Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) started to develop a policy around the return of native title materials or ROM since 2013 when they engaged in returning parts of native title materials. Initially these were a single redacted connection report to Nyangumarta traditional owners (TOs) and a redacted report plus selected audio and images to Ngarla TOs. Now they engage in a more holistic approach.

Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation (RRKAC) RNTBC (previously Kuruma Marthudunera Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC) is the registered native title body corporate for Robe River Kuruma (RRK) native title determined areas. The RRK people have traditional rights to an area covering nearly 16, 000 square kilometres in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with over 10, 000 square kilometres recognised through two consent determinations.

YMAC and RRKAC started the process of negotiating the return of native title materials in 2017 shortly before their second determination. Until November 2019 the process entailed several consultative meetings and two community workshops in July and September 2018. In these workshops both parties had a first conversation about what material is available for return, what expectations community members have and how they want to use this material. Since then RRKAC and members have produced a Return of Research and Litigation Policy (RoRM). YMAC required community approval of this policy at a RRKAC general meeting held in November 2019. YMAC has returned materials to RRKAC in January 2020.


The AIATSIS research team held a two-day workshop on 14 - 15 May 2019 at the YMAC offices in Perth. The main workshop topics discussed were YMAC’s Return of Material (ROM) policies and procedures, their ROM governance framework, YMAC’s archives and records management, legal obligations and issues, resourcing, funding and infrastructure, access to materials and transfer of materials, and the use of databases.

To investigate the experience of the PBC with the returns process, NTRU team members visited the RRKAC office in Karratha on 18 - 20 October 2019. The research team conducted interviews with RRKAC staff, Robe River Kuruma members and a brief workshop with RRKAC staff and their Heritage Advisory Committee.



Ophelia Rubinich 
Research Fellow, Native Title Research Unit

Last reviewed: 23 Apr 2020