AIATSIS Seminar Series 2005 James Weiner and John Burton Contemporary Socio-political Fragmentation in Native Title Claim Groups in Queensland 22 March 2005 Abstract: What if conflict and opposition were integral and conventional forms of “classical” Aboriginal social articulation, both within and between recognizable social groups? The language of both the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 (NT) and the Native Title Act 1993 on the other hand, assumes that Aboriginal land holding groups were not only internally solitary but had and continue to have conventional relations of stability with other like-ordered groups. In this paper I examine two cases of contemporary fragmentation of native title claimant groups and suggest that strategies of opposition and withdrawal are most likely related to pre-colonial practices of social and territorial differentiation. The Native Title Act 1993 eclipses fully half of what conventional Aboriginal social formations were about in the classical period. Biography: James Weiner has conducted research among the Foi of Papua New Guinea and has worked as a consultant in the field of analysis of land-owner social and territorial organization in Papua New Guinea and Queensland. He is the co-editor, with Alan Rumsey, of Emplaced Myth: Space, Narrative, and Knowledge in Aboriginal Australia and Papua New Guinea (2001), and Mining and Indigenous Lifeworlds in Papua New Guinea and Australia (2004). The People Remember and the Government Forgets: the last 100 years of land disputes at Mer, Torres Strait Abstract: Soon after moving to Torres Strait, I became aware that the rest of Australia celebrates 1992 Mabo case as a great victory for the Murray Islanders, but the situation is very different at Mer. The Meriam remain trapped in a web of at least 50 extremely heated land disputes, with no obvious resolution in sight. In 2004, in conjunction with a mediation exercise held jointly by the TSRA and National Native Title Tribunal, I did an investigation of land disputes in a small section of the village area, aided by the recent re-discovery of an 1893 map of householdings at 'Meer' in the Queensland State Archives, and a detailed analysis of the 80 years of records of the Murray Island Court. I conclude that the interaction of Meriam with the various forms of Queensland Government administration that have existed since 1879 is not really a question of 'two cultures'. On the contrary, in each generation various institutions of government find solutions and work with Meriam to negotiate agreements, only to forget within a short time that they have done so. The Meriam, for their part, are left remembering the disputes and are unsuccessful in holding the attention of any sections of government long enough for the remedies to hold. Biography: After doctoral research in the PNG highlands in 1980-81, John Burton held the position of Lecturer in Anthropology and Sociology for 6 years at the University of Papua New Guinea. In 1987 he began an 18 year interest with social mapping and land ownership in Melanesia, going on to work on the social organisation of land tenure in six widely separated provinces of PNG during the 1990s. In 2001 John took up the position of Senior Anthropologist with the Torres Strait Regional Authority, at Thursday Island. He currently works as a Research Fellow, Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Australian National University.
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