Adelaide leads new curriculum on native title

The traditional owners of Lake Eyre (pictured) - the Arabunna - have recently been granted native title after a 14-year legal campaign. Photo by David Wall.

The traditional owners of Lake Eyre (pictured) - the Arabunna - have recently been granted native title after a 14-year legal campaign. Photo by David Wall.
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Thursday, 7 June 2012

The University of Adelaide has been awarded $133,000 to set the basis for a national curriculum to train more native title experts in Australia and address a critical shortfall in this area.

The funding, awarded to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, was announced yesterday by the Federal Attorney-General, the Hon. Nicola Roxon, at a native title conference in Townsville.

It comes a fortnight after the traditional owners of Lake Eyre - the Arabunna - were granted native title, ending a 14-year legal campaign.

Dr Deane Fergie, a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Adelaide, says there is a pressing need for training in native title anthropology because most of the expert practitioners in this area are nearing retirement.

"A demographic crisis is looming in native title expertise, so academic training is urgent," Dr Fergie says.

In 2011, the University received more than $250,000 from the Federal Government to develop the Australian Native Title Studies program and a physical and virtual hub for native title anthropology at the University of Adelaide.

Over the past year, the University has hosted five Australian Native Title Study Fellows - trained anthropologists - to mentor, develop teaching materials, write papers and exchange knowledge on native title issues.

Additional expertise in the 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.

The curriculum, expected to be finalised by 2015, will be developed by academics from a number of universities (including the ANU, the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, La Trobe, James Cook University and the University of Western Australia) and coordinated at Adelaide.

"We intend to develop a suite of postgraduate awards delivered as distance education with a combination of online and intensive on-campus study," Dr Fergie says.

"Under this model, the University of Adelaide will be the awarding institution and Adelaide and other universities will contribute units to the postgraduate program."

The University of Adelaide has one of the most experienced native title anthropology teams in Australia, spearheaded by Dr Deane Fergie and Dr Rodney Lucas who lead the Locus of Social Analysis and Research (LocuSAR) team.

The couple has led teams which have researched and provided expert reports on a number of recent native title claims, including Eastern Maar in South West Victoria; the Gawler Ranges; Dieri (Cooper Creek region); and Arabunna (Lake Eyre).


Contact Details

Dr Deane Fergie
Senior Lecturer
Discipline of Anthropology & Development Studies
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 7197
Mobile: 0459 846 551

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762