It was my pleasure in May 2014 to participate in the launch of the ADC’s ATSI scholarship program and to have been invited to recommend Aboriginal people from with the Aboriginal Land Council network in NSW to participate in the program.
To date eight Aboriginal Land Council representatives have undertaken or are undertaking mediation training with the ADC through the ATSI scholarship program.
All those who have participated have expressed the revelation, common to all who engage with the power of mediation and other forms of ADR; I never realised how important and relevant mediation skills are to the work I do, I will use these skills every day!
Together with the revelation of the power of the practice of mediation, a vibrate dialogue emerges about the cross cultural issues that arise for ATSI people when engaging in mediation and how ADR Practises can be moulded and refined to best suit ATSI peoples’ needs.
For my own understanding of the importance of considering the cross cultural imperative in mediation I am indebted to the Mawul Rom project of the NT. We are fortunate tonight to have (Maratja Dhamarrandji & Sarah Blake) with us, leaders of that project.
The strong and principled leadership that the ADC has shown with its ATSI scholarship program is to be greatly commended. It will over time create a body of ATSI ADR practitioners across Australia that will make a real difference to the conflicts that ATSI peoples face.
In the NSW context, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act embeds ADR principles as a function of the peak body, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and the Registrar. Mediation, conciliation and arbitration are all available remedies under the ALRA.
The Aboriginal Land Council network is rich with opportunities for mediators to make a difference.
Opportunities for ATSI mediators range from disputes between individuals (an example) to large scale dispute settlement processes involving Aboriginal Land Councils, Aboriginal people asserting or holding Native Title rights and interests, other Aboriginal people asserting cultural authority, the Crown and other sectors of the community.
Aboriginal people may assert their cultural authority in NSW by seeking to jointly manage conservation lands with the Crown. Negotiating these complex joint land management arrangements will greatly benefit from the assistance of Aboriginal mediators.
Recent amendments to the ALRA provide for good faith negotiations between Aboriginal Land Councils and the Crown in relation to land claims lodged under the ALRA. The principles and structure of mediation will guide these negotiations.
For those Aboriginal people and organisations with representatives at the table they will share with the Crown and others who are trained mediators, the playing field will be that much more level for the negotiations. With Aboriginal mediators between the parties, more fulsome and lastingagreements will be made.
The other great challenge for Aboriginal mediators in NSW will be the important dialogue between Aboriginal Land Councils and those with Native Title rights and interests. The rights and obligations of Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title claimants and holders are deeply intertwined; legally, historically and culturally. The need for Aboriginal mediators to assist with the dialogue between Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title claimants and holders is great and will only get greater as Aboriginal people in NSW continue to assert their cultural authority and seek to participate to the fullest extent in the cultural, social and economic life of NSW.
I am grateful to the ADC for the dedication it has shown to training ATSI mediators and to their goodwill in letting me participate in the project. I would urge all present tonight to continue to support and encourage this wonderful endeavour.
Stephen Wright, Registrar, Aboriginal Lands Act of NSW
Speaking at the Australian ADR Awards, August 2016