Federal recognition for Adelaide's native title expertise

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The University of Adelaide has been recognised as a national leader in native title research after winning Federal Government funding to address a major skills shortage in this area.

Over the next 12 months the University's Anthropology Discipline will use more than $250,000 from the Attorney General's Department to train more anthropologists in native title and look at developing a national curriculum dealing with this complex issue.

"There is a huge need for professional practice in this area and not enough anthropologists in Australia with expertise in native title claims," says Dr Deane Fergie, a senior lecturer in anthropology at the University of Adelaide.

The grant money will be used to establish a physical and virtual hub for native title anthropology at the University of Adelaide, with study leave fellowships awarded to anthropologists from around Australia to mentor, develop teaching materials, write papers and exchange knowledge on native title issues.

The group will develop specific research approaches to Indigenous communities and also look at processes to better inform the governance structures which are required to administer native title.

The remainder of the funds will be used to instigate discussion on a national curriculum on native title anthropology in universities around the country.

"Native title anthropology is a relatively new field as it only began after the MABO judgement in 1992 and the subsequent establishment of the Native Title Act," says Dr Fergie.

"It is a very challenging area for anthropologists, partly because each State has its own native title regime and there are a variety of stakeholders. Indigenous societies are very complex and a one-size fits all approach doesn't work.

"That is why we welcome the opportunity to create an infrastructure for professional development at the University of Adelaide."

Dr Fergie says up to six short-term fellowships will be offered to native title anthropologists in the next year.

Additional expertise in this field is expected to reduce the backlog of native title claims across the country, although the Federal Court and Attorney-General's Department in South Australia has taken a lead in expediting cases before the courts.

Last week, the Greens proposed changes to the Native Title Act which would remove the onus on Aboriginal groups having to prove continual occupancy of the land when lodging native title claims.

If the legislation is passed it promises faster resolution of claims.

"The research, training and fellowship will benefit all native title practitioners and represents a major step forward in understanding and resolving these claims," says Dr Fergie.


Contact Details

Dr Deane Fergie
Email: deane.fergie@adelaide.edu.au
Senior Lecturer
Discipline of Anthropology & Development Studies
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 7197
Mobile: 0459 846 551

Mr David Ellis
Email: david.ellis@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762