A Voice For First Nations In South Australia

First Nations groups in South Australia will have a new voice after representatives from across the state resolved to incorporate a new peak body that will promote the perspectives and interests of Aboriginal Nations.

Representatives from native title groups met in Adelaide on the 10th of October to discuss the functioning and creation of the “First Nations of South Australia Aboriginal Corporation”.The group will provide leadership, advocacy and a resource for Aboriginal Nations in South Australia.

Those present for the decision represent Traditional Owner communities who hold or seek native title rights across the state, from the far north west of South Australia through the centre and north of the state and into the south east.

The delegates also resolved to invite representatives from the west of the state, the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands and Maralinga Tjarutja lands communities to join the new body.

After voting to progress to incorporation of the new group, representatives appointed an inaugural board of twelve people from those present.Those individual members will guide the organisation pending an Annual General Meeting where Aboriginal Nations, including Prescribed Bodies Corporate and native title claim groups, can apply to join the new corporation.The meeting is expected early in 2019.

Lorraine Merrick, General Manager of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation and an inaugural member of the new corporation said that she felt positive about the decision.

“I see it as an opportunity to strengthen the Prescribed Bodies Corporate and our native title bodies in the sense that we have our nation groups and our governance structure, but this would be a body that can provide additional support by prioritising and looking at issues that are common across all nations and for developing strategies and means of addressing those issues,

“This is a mechanism by which if there is an issue we want to escalate and get additional political support from others, then this is a way we can do that” Ms Merrick said.

Travis Thomas from the Nukunu nation and also an inaugural member of the new body said he thinks the decision provides important opportunities.

“I believe it sets up a great opportunity for each of the different groups to have a voice which is a direct conduit into the government departments, where in the past it may be difficult for each group to get their voice heard and to make access to the relevant people.

“This provides a streamlined approach to be able to have those conversations and convey the messages from our groups and our people to the government in regards to the issues that we are experiencing, the problems we have and the ideas we have for the future our own development and our own opportunities”

The body also provides an opportunity for Aboriginal Nations to learn from each other Mr Thomas said.

“I believe it’s also a great place for ideas to be shared amongst the different groups, solutions to problems, often the problems we find are found in other areas and often there are solutions or be able to assist us with our own issues or vice versa so in that regard I believe it’s a fantastic start” he said.

While native title groups and other Aboriginal nations will collaborate in the new organisation, it will not take on any of the individual decision making that now happens in individual communities Mr Thomas said.

“It’s designed to be a conduit, to take the voice of groups forward and present it to government and departments.The group manages itself as they always have, this is an avenue for whoever they decide to appoint to represent them in a more direct and easy manner, so hopefully their concerns are heard” Mr Thomas said.

Ms Merrick said that the new organisation is a valuable addition to the governance structures for Aboriginal organisations in the state.

“This doesn’t replace the PBCs.This enhances the governing structure for South Australia, and it’s an opportunity for us to escalate and advocate for the issues, the common issues that we have as Prescribed Bodies Corporate” she said.

The new corporation will receive support and some funding from South Australian Native Title Services (SANTS) and will seek further sources of revenue.

Tom Jenkin, Manager of Corporate and Community Development at SANTS said the decision by delegates is a great outcome.

“It’s a positive and significant decision for native title groups to come together and establish a representative peak body to work for the collective interest and benefits of their communities and others across the state” he said.

“The decision has been made in a considered and informed manner and there is much enthusiasm for the future of this new organisation

“It will give Aboriginal Nations a chance to collaborate and lead discussions on shared issues and opportunities, including relevant reforms to government policies, programs and legislation. It provides a framework for leader to leader dialogue at a state level, to communicate and drive an Aboriginal led agenda, and to realise many long-desired changes and opportunities” Dr Jenkin said.

By Lucy Kingston

SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.