Exclusive: Native Title research on the way

A MAJOR University of Queensland research project is soon to get green lit to shed light on the fractious world of Aboriginal politics which has held back resources projects, Energy News has learned.
Exclusive: Native Title research on the way Exclusive: Native Title research on the way Exclusive: Native Title research on the way Exclusive: Native Title research on the way Exclusive: Native Title research on the way
The issue came to a head this week after Attorney-General George Brandis flagged changes to the Native Title Act around the Indigenous Land Use Agreements as industry flagged future ILUAs could be at risk, and new projects along with them.
 
The Commonwealth moved on the issue after the federal court in Western Australia struck down a $1.3 billion deal between the state government and local indigenous people on February 1 after some representatives refused to sign, leading the NNTT to confirm it would freeze all new land use agreements across Australia.
 
Energy News has learned that a new UQ research project is soon likely to be funded to address the very issues at the heart of this, namely indigenous disputation.
 
The study will address questions dealt with in Queensland's CSG industry in UQ's 2014 research, but on a national scale and with the aim of facilitating the resolution of native title claims affected by Indigenous conflicts. This will also have bearing on disputes around ILUAs and resource developments.
 
UQ's first step will be to work across representative bodies, Aboriginal groups and other related parties to see what actually drives the disputes that have occurred. 
 
UQ academic Dr Kim de Rijke - who has worked with indigenous groups across the country including in Western Australia's Kimberley where Buru Energy recently reached a landmark deal with indigenous groups, and in Queensland where thousands of CSG wells are planned - detailed some of the issues in indigenous politics to Energy News this week.
 
"There's often a poor understanding of what actually drives these kinds of conflicts during native title claims generally and indigenous land use agreements specifically," he said.
 
Dr de Rijke said James Price Point, which was shelved partly because of the price tag which was believed to be in the order of $80 billion and disputes with the WA government about onshore processing, was one such case.
 
Yet the problem was that public debate was polarised between two seemingly conflicting ideologies, but which hid the truth of the internal disputes going on among Aboriginal groups.
 
In April 2009 the WA government, operator Woodside Petroleum and the Kimberley Land Council representing Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr Native Title Claim Group inked a head of agreement to ensure a clear framework to move negotiations along.
 
Then in 2011 the GJJ group consented compulsory acquisition of the land at James Price Point to be used for the Browse LNG project.
 
In 2013 the Wilderness Society joined with traditional owner Richard Hunter to launch legal action against WA's environmental regulator and the minister over the gas hub's approvals, which then-Chief Justice Wayne Martin ruled in their favour.
 
"Absolutely it [the James Price Point debate] was part of where you see internal Aboriginal conflict about what matters - is it indeed about Kimberley economic development versus the destruction of heritage, or is it something more complicated?" he said.
 
"Then you have the role of white environmentalists, the legal system and unequal power relations between Aboriginal people and resource companies in all this, so it's a heavily-charged environment Aboriginal people need to navigate. 
 
"So it needs to be understood as a complex field of political arguments in which Aboriginal people have diverse priorities."
 
He said last month's decision by the federal court in WA highlighted another case of conflicting views about what is acceptable in terms of environmental impact and the "cultural landscape" versus economic benefit and employment, housing and land for the Noongar people.