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Media Release: Indigenous participation in the developing northern economy 2013

Date: 
Friday, May 3, 2013

Second North Australian Indigenous Experts Forum on Sustainable Economic Development, 30 April - 2 May 2013

The second North Australian Indigenous Experts Forum on Sustainable Economic Development discussed how to respond to challenges potentially arising from proposals to develop north Australia as part of the growing and critical debate on global food security and in response to the Australian Government’s Asian Century White Paper.

Forum Chairman Professor Patrick Dodson, described the Forum as, ‘historically significant because of the determination of participants to explore innovative ways for Indigenous interests to engage with governments and industry in northern Australia’s economic future.’

Professor Dodson said, ‘there was a critical need to develop a commercial framework that could assist Traditional Owner interests for engagement with investors, development proponents and governments.’

The Forum participants endorsed engagement at various levels within the national commercial sector and to investigate pathways for dealing with international interests, as well as how best to navigate across all jurisdictions of northern Australia.

The Forum also advocated for a leadership group to guide the future relationship and participation in the various industries building upon connections and protocols that are emerging out of existing engagements.

Professor Dodson said, ‘the growing interest in northern Australia’s economic future is an opportunity for the nation to embark on a different development paradigm that is both inclusive and sustainable.’

He further added, ‘the Forum was adamant that they were not passive agents in determining the future of northern Australia and has called upon governments, industries and other interests to respect and acknowledge the uniqueness of northern Australia and its peoples.’

‘For there to be success, a broad institutional framework incorporating traditional land owning groups, land councils and organisations must emerge to ensure that the proposed dialogue and relationship building can deliver practical outcomes.’


The Indigenous Experts Forum was established as part of the Northern Australia Sustainable Futures program and funded by the Australian Government Department of Regional Development, Arts and Sport.


Additional statements from the Second North Australian Indigenous Experts Forum

  • The need to develop a commercial framework that could assist Traditional Owner interests for engagement with investors, development proponents and governments.
  • Recognising the already constructive participation by Indigenous peoples in and across various industry sectors.
  • The Panel participants encouraged engagement at various levels within the national commercial sector and to investigate pathways for dealing with international interests, as well as how best to navigate across all jurisdictions of northern Australia.
  • The Forum acknowledged the need for constructive collaboration among all interests responsible for representing Traditional Owner and native title holder interests across northern Australia
  • The Forum is keen to see measures established to ensure that real benefits accrue and change the social circumstances for their communities and family wellbeing.
  • The Forum is conscious that Indigenous interests across northern Australia are extensive, and decision making in relation to development proposals affecting their assets are very much the domain of those particular peoples.
  • The Forum made it clear that cultural considerations and connectivity between land and water are integral to considerations about 'free, prior and informed' consent (UNDRIP).
  • The Forum advocated that there should be a leadership group to guide the future relationship and participation in the various industries building upon connections and protocols that are emerging out of existing engagements.
  • The Forum was clear that proposals for northern development must involve the participation and inclusion of the Traditional Owners who permanently live in the north Australia
  • The Forum was adamant that they are not passive agents in determining the future of northern Australia but called upon governments, industries and others to respect and acknowledge the uniqueness of northern Australia and its peoples.

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