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  • Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research College of Arts and Social Sciences

    The Australian National University, Canberra

    Research Monograph No. 29


    CONTESTED GOVERNANCE Culture, power and institutions

    in Indigenous Australia

    Janet Hunt, Diane Smith, Stephanie Garling and Will Sanders (Editors)


    E P R E S S

  • Published by ANU E Press The Australian National University Canberra ACT 0200, Australia Email: This title is also available online at:

    National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

    Title: Contested governance : culture, power and institutions in indigenous Australia / editors: Janet Hunt ... [et al.].

    ISBN: 9781921536045 (pbk.) 9781921536052 (pdf)

    Series: Research monograph (Australian National University. Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research) ; no. 29.

    Subjects: Aboriginal Australians--Politics and government. Aboriginal Australians--Economic conditions. Aboriginal Australians--Social conditions. Community development--Australia.

    Other Authors/Contributors: Hunt, Janet. Australian National University. Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research.

    Dewey Number: 320.0899915

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

    Cover design by ANU E Press.

    Printed by University Printing Services, ANU

    This edition © 2008 ANU E Press

  • iii


    List of Figures v

    List of Tables vii

    Notes on contributors ix

    Abbreviations and acronyms xiii

    Foreword xvii Mick Dodson

    Acknowledgements xxi

    1. Understanding Indigenous Australian governance—research, theory 1 and representations Diane Smith and Janet Hunt

    Part 1. The governance environment

    2. Between a rock and a hard place: self-determination, mainstreaming 27 and Indigenous community governance Janet Hunt

    3. Constraints on researchers acting as change agents 55 Sarah Holcombe

    Part 2. Culture, power and the intercultural

    4. Cultures of governance and the governance of culture: transforming 75 and containing Indigenous institutions in West Arnhem Land Diane Smith

    5. Whose governance, for whose good? The Laynhapuy Homelands 113 Association and the neo-assimilationist turn in Indigenous policy Frances Morphy

    6. Regenerating governance on Kaanju homelands 153 Benjamin Richard Smith

    Part 3. Institutions of Indigenous governance

    7. Different governance for difference: the Bawinanga Aboriginal 177 Corporation Jon Altman

    8. The business of governing: building institutional capital in an 205 urban enterprise Diane Smith

  • iv

    9. Indigenous leaders and leadership: agents of networked 233 governance Bill Ivory

    Part 4. Contesting cultural geographies of governance

    10. Noongar Nation 265 Manuhuia Barcham

    11. Regionalism that respects localism: the Anmatjere Community 283 Government Council and beyond Will Sanders

    Part 5. Rebuilding governance

    12. Incorporating cattle: governance and an Aboriginal pastoral 313 enterprise Christina Lange

    13. Mapping expectations around a ‘governance review’ exercise of a 331 West Kimberley organisation Kathryn Thorburn

    Key ICGP Publications 351

    Contested Governance

  • List of Figures

    8The ICGP case study sites included in this volume1.1 87The proposed region for the West Central Arnhem

    Regional Authority, under the BSRSF policy 4.1

    88Proposed representative structure for the West Central Arnhem Regional Authority


    90The required region for the West Arnhem Shire under the new local government policy


    98The representative structure for the West Arnhem Shire under the new local government policy


    99The proposed logo of the West Arnhem Shire Transition Committee and the former regional authority


    115The Yolngu region5.1 116The Laynhapuy Homelands Association

    homelands and the Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area


    124Kin relations in the Yolngu marriage bestowal system


    125The märi–gutharra and ngändi–waku relationships between clans, from the perspective of a Madarrpa sibling pair


    131The hub and spokes model5.5 137The intercultural space from the state’s point of

    view 5.6

    139The intercultural space from the Yolngu point of view


    160Central Cape York Peninsula outstations map6.1 164Kinship relations of the Wenlock outstation ‘mob’6.2 180Maningrida regional map7.1 187BAC organisational structure and business units7.2 220The ‘Yarnteen family’ of organisations8.1 239Port Keats/Wadeye regional map showing

    localities and pastoral stations mentioned in the text


    240Murrinh-patha age categories9.2 272Six Noongar claims10.1 276SWALSC wards10.2 285Area and wards of the Anmatjere Community

    Government Council 11.1

    290Ti Tree town and Creek Camp11.2


  • 297Graphic of ACGC quorum rules11.3 298Depiction of regional/local relationships in

    Anmatjere 11.4

    301Proposed shires and municipalities in the Northern Territory from July 2008


    315Location of the local government Shire of Wiluna and the township of Wiluna, WA


    333West Kimberley region showing Kurungal Inc’s communities


    334Structure of Kurungal Inc13.2

    vi  Contested Governance

  • List of Tables

    236Paradigms of Indigenous leadership9.1 292ACGC election 2004, enrolments by ward11.1


  • Notes on contributors

    Jon Altman

    Jon Altman is Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University, Canberra. He has a disciplinary background in economics and anthropology. Professor Altman has undertaken research in the Maningrida region and with the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation since 1979 on a diversity of issues, including the customary economy, resource management, land rights and the outstations movement, the arts industry, and the Community Development Employment Projects scheme. His current research focuses on the Indigenous hybrid economy in the tropical savanna, and the potential of equitable payment for environmental services delivered to provide viable livelihood options for Indigenous people.

    Manuhuia Barcham

    Manuhuia Barcham is the former Director of the Centre for Indigenous Governance and Development at Massey University, New Zealand, and is now a Director of Synexe, a private sector research and consulting firm. He has field experience in eastern Indonesia, Melanesia, Australasia, eastern Polynesia and North America. A key practical goal of his work is to explore how indigenous and introduced governance structures and processes can come together constructively so as to maximise their developmental utility for local communities.

    Sarah Holcombe

    Sarah Holcombe is a social anthropologist and Research Fellow at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at The Australian National University. Prior to this she was a Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) on two Australian Research Council projects: ‘Indigenous community organisations and miners: partnering sustainable regional development?’ and the ‘Indigenous Community Governance Project’. The research in the latter project was also supported by the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) as part of the ‘Sustainable Settlements’ research program. In her later period at CAEPR Dr Holcombe also held the position of Social Science Coordinator for the Desert Knowledge CRC. She has a balance of applied and academic anthropology, having worked earlier for the Central and Northern Land Councils as a regional staff anthropologist.

    Janet Hunt

    Janet Hunt is a Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University where she manages the Indigenous


  • Community Governance Project. She has worked for many years in international development with a particular focus on non-government organisations (NGOs), gender and development, and the Pacific and South East Asia regions. She was Executive Director of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, the peak body of international development NGOs, from 1995–2000. Since 1999 she has worked with a range of local and international NGOs in East Timor. She has published about education, aid and development, East Timor, and Indigenous governance; and has lectured in international and community development at RMIT and Deakin universities. Her most recent book, co-authored with four others, is International Development: Issues and Challenges, published by Palgrave in 2008.

    Bill Ivory

    Bill Ivory is a PhD scholar with Charles Darwin University/Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, Northern Territory (NT). He has a background in anthropology and community development. Bill has worked in Indigenous affairs since 1972 with the NT and Commonwealth Governments. He graduated from the Australian School of Pacific Administration in 19