By April Webb
It’s the end of semester and my directed study is done, hooray! (Not that I mean to imply that it wasn’t fun… of course.) It was a lot of work (50% research, 25% writing, 25% deleting the gibberish that my cats inserted while I wasn’t looking), but now I can say with confidence that I have a basic understanding of Indigenous heritage management in Australia. And now I can do more than nod politely and give a blank stare when people talk about legislation and government bodies that I previously knew nothing about. I’m sure that’s a good thing. In my previous blog posts I discussed the basic advantages of a regional governance system, and talked a little about the Ngarrindjeri and Torres Strait Regional Authorities. Here’s a summary of my final report.
In July 2013 the Department of the Premier and Cabinet of the South Australian Government announced plans for implementing a system of Aboriginal Regional Authorities across the state. These Authorities would be responsible for a range of functions which would differ according to the needs and capabilities of each region, and would base their operations to an extent on the successful example of the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority. Submissions were received from a variety of interested parties, and in December 2013 test sites were chosen. They are:
• Narungga (Yorke Peninsula) – Narungga Aboriginal Corporation Regional Authority;
• Ngarrindjeri (Lower River Murray) – Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority;
• Port Augusta – Port Augusta Aboriginal Community Engagement Group; and
• Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) – Kaurna Nation Cultural Heritage Association.
My Directed Study project involved a study of existing ARAs and similar structures in order to determine how such bodies might function, and what their pros and cons might be.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, regionalism was generally seen as a desirable model for Indigenous governance, as evidenced in the academic literature on the subject and in submissions made to the South Australian Government on the topic by interested parties. A caveat was that regions should be decided by Indigenous people themselves and not be the product of ‘top-down’ approaches, such as that derived through census data. It was also noted that Regional Authorities would most likely need to have statutory authority or some sort of legislative recognition in order to achieve effective governance, although there are some examples of bodies who are able to govern effectively without this, such as the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority. Funding was another major concern. It is likely that Regional bodies will require more intensive funding from the government in their early stages, and that this will enable them to become more self-sufficient as time goes on. The funding arrangements of existing bodies such as the NRA and Gumala Aboriginal Corporation provided insight into possible schemes for self-funding. Lastly, Aboriginal Regional Authorities might provide clarification in South Australia on whom to approach for heritage matters, and exactly how much authority Indigenous groups have in these instances.
So, I am happy to say that my report is finished and submitted! Now it’s the holidays, time for me to concentrate on other things, like watching TV and continuing with my botched attempts to learn to play the flute (sorry, neighbours). Oh, and continuing to work on this report. My industry partner has mentioned that we might be able to turn the report into a joint publication eventually, which is very exciting. So, still a lot of work to do!