Session 2

Peter Johnson and Sue Davenport

Harnessing cultural information for community benefit after native title

This presentation will look at two dimensions of the value and use of native title information in a post-determination world. The first dimension is the collection, organisation, preservation and dissemination of valuable cultural information collected during native title claims. This information has immense personal and social value to Indigenous communities, but only if it is properly organised and made accessible, particularly to assist in the transfer of cultural knowledge to younger generations. This is not a trivial task, and involves substantial challenges.

The second dimension is political and economic. As elders pass away, information collected by anthropologists, including for native title determinations, can be a major source of cultural knowledge. There is increasing evidence that initiatives for economic engagement that are based on cultural values are more likely to succeed in remote communities than are purely mainstream initiatives. In a post native title world, where land tenure provides an unprecedented economic base, this creates a new role for cultural knowledge, as a key asset for social stabilisation, economic development and the emergence of identities rooted in cultural reality but resonant in modern contexts. The speakers will describe the way in which this link between cultural knowledge and social development is having effect in Martu communities.

Sue Davenport has worked with Martu people since 1987. She is currently the Manager of the Culture and Heritage Program in Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ), in which role she has primary responsibility for the collection, organisation, preservation and dissemination of cultural information held by KJ. She is a co-author of Cleared Out (2005) and collaborated to produce the associated film Contact (2009).

Peter Johnson is the CEO of Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa and has worked with Martu since 2003. His background prior to that was in the legal and community sectors and in business. With Sue Davenport and others, he has worked successfully to develop an economic base in Martu communities, built on cultural knowledge and skills. Peter co-authored Cleared Out (2005).