Return of native title materials

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their representatives have created an enormous amount of research as a result of the native title system.

Native title claim materials include information on genealogies, languages, laws and customs and areas of significance. They are vitally important to current and future members of native title groups and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities because of their historical, cultural, personal and economic value.

These materials are essential for future decision-making and can support, for example, good governance, knowledge transmission to young people and future generations, language programs, cultural heritage protection, environmental conservation and land management.

Many PBCs, on behalf of the native title group, want to have control of research materials which will ideally contribute to their independence and long-term sustainability.

Karajarrii PBC member Jessica Bangu adding metadata to a previously undescribed collection at AIATSIS. Photo: Tran Tran

Jessica Bangu's hand writing on page with historic photos.

However, the management of these materials represents an ongoing challenge for native title groups and their representatives including Native Title Representative Bodies and Service Providers (NTRB/SPs) and PBCs.

The Returning Native Title Materials (RNTM) project explores the use of materials collected through the native title process, including storage, proper access and most importantly, returning to native title groups.

Three home and garage archives housing 40 years of native title and land claims research. Photos: Daniel Vachon, David Parsons and Toni Bauman

Three photos of personal native title  and land claim archives house at home and in a garage.

AIATSIS will share resources, such as workshop reports and templates, on the best practice for issues relating to native title materials including, good governance, archiving, and legal concerns. They will also share learnings from NTRB/SPs and PBCs who have engaged in a returns process.

The NTRU is partnering with NTRB/SPs, PBCs and research institutions, including Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, Robe Rive Kuruma Aboriginal Corporation, La Trobe University and Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, on a number of case studies.

Further resources:

Case studies:

Case study reports:

Further reading and resources: