Indigenous Law Bulletin
by Dr Lisa Palmer
Over the last thirty years there has been a proliferation of agreements involving Australian Indigenous people. These include agreements with resource extraction companies, railway, pipeline and other major infrastructure project proponents, local governments, state governments, farming and grazing representative bodies, universities, publishers, arts organisations and many other institutions and agencies.
The Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements database (ATNS) is an online gateway which links together current information, historical detail and published material relating to agreements made between indigenous people and others in Australia and overseas. The ATNS database is designed for the use of indigenous and other community organisations, researchers, government and industry bodies. It is anticipated that the project will contribute to the efforts of indigenous organisations to secure political and economic rights through agreements with governments, industry and the broader Australian community.
The ATNS database project began in March 2002 and the first phase of the database was launched at the Native Title Conference in Alice Springs in June 2003. To date the ATNS project team has accumulated a significant quantity of data relating to agreements and the organisations, agencies, corporations and legislative frameworks that are involved in the process of agreement making between indigenous people and others in Australia and overseas. There are over 1500 entities and published resources in the database of which approximately 350 are agreements. The database includes only information that is already available in the public domain in some form or information given to us by parties who have given us permission to include it in the database. The database does not contain confidential information.
While many of the agreements in the database relate to land, the database also includes non-land based agreements such as those agreements made in the areas of health, education and research.
Importantly, while many agreements in the ATNS database relate to native title, many more are examples of agreements that involve matters other than native title. The ATNS database is the only resource of its kind that demonstrates the range and variety of agreement making occurring in Australia.
The development of the ATNS database is an integral part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project, ‘Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements with Indigenous Peoples in Settler States: their role and relevance for Indigenous and other Australians’. Along with the ATNS database on treaties and agreements in Australia and overseas, outcomes of this project will include the publication of an edited collection and a series of discussion papers, many of which will be based on case studies of particular instances of agreement making.
Along with our industry partner, ATSIC, this project involves Professor Marcia Langton, Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies, Ms Maureen Tehan of the Faculty of Law and Dr Lisa Palmer, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne and Professor Larissa Behrendt of the Faculty of Law and Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, The University of Technology Sydney. The project is also supported by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
If any individuals or organisations are interested in contributing material for the ATNS database please contact Dr Lisa Palmer via email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 03 83443462.
To view the database: www.atns.net.au
Lisa Palmer is an ARC Postdoctoral Fellow with the research project on Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements. She is based in the School of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies, the University of Melbourne, in Melbourne, Australia.