Customary Land Tenure & Registration in Australia and Papua New Guinea

Customary Land Tenure & Registration in Australia and Papua New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives

James F. Weiner
Katie Glaskin
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Customary Land Tenure & Registration in Australia and Papua New Guinea
    Book Description:

    The main theme of this volume is a discussion of the ways in which legal mechanisms, such as the Land Groups Incorporation Act (1974) in PNG, and the Native Title Act (1993) in Australia, do not, as they purport, serve merely to identify and register already-existing customary indigenous landowning groups in these countries. Because the legislation is an integral part of the way in which indigenous people are defined and managed in relation to the State, it serves to elicit particular responses in landowner organisation and self-identification on the part of indigenous people. These pieces of legislation actively contour the progressive evolution of landowner social, territorial and political organisation at all levels in these nation states. The contributors to this volume provide in-depth anthropological case studies of social structural and cultural transformations engendered by the confrontation between states, developers and indigenous communities over rights to customarily owned land.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-27-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Lester R. Hiatt

    Anthropologists 50 years ago would probably have regarded a collaborative presentation of essays on indigenous land tenure in Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) as a dubious undertaking, if not a category error. Aboriginal and Melanesian systems were functionally distinct, one adapted to the needs of a hunting and gathering economy, the other to sedentary horticulture. Going back another 50 years, such a conjunction would have been intelligible only if its purpose was to exhibit lower and higher stages in cultural evolution. As the authors of the present volume are not motivated by a desire either to overturn functionalism or...

  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Chapter One Customary Land Tenure and Registration in Papua New Guinea and Australia: Anthropological Perspectives
    (pp. 1-14)
    James F. Weiner and Katie Glaskin

    In 2005, the mechanism of indigenous customary land tenure was again under assault in both Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG).¹ It was claimed that communal customary land tenure was impeding economic development; that it was inconsistent with the exercise of individual autonomy and freedom in a liberal society, and that it was an archaic base upon which to build and develop a national economy in the modern world. Steven Gosarevksi, Helen Hughes and Susan Windybank (2004: 137) thus asserted: ‘communal ownership has not permitted any country to develop. In PNG, where 90 per cent of people live on the...

  7. Chapter Two A Legal Regime for Issuing Group Titles to Customary Land: Lessons from the East Sepik
    (pp. 15-38)
    Jim Fingleton

    Recently, there has been renewed interest in the subject of customary land reform in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Although it was never really off the agenda, the protests, riots and police killings in Port Moresby which accompanied the World Bank’s attempt to promote customary land registration in 2001 meant that land tenure reform moved to the margins of the political debate. But the subject is too important for it to remain marginal for long, and customary land registration was placed on the agenda for a high-level ‘land summit’ held in PNG in August 2005. In preparation for that meeting, I...

  8. Chapter Three Land, Customary and Non-Customary, in East New Britain
    (pp. 39-56)
    Keir Martin

    The Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain (ENB) Province has for many years been regarded as one of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG’s) most ‘developed’ regions, with the village of Matupit being seen as one of the most forward-looking Tolai villages. It was the village closest to the town of Rabaul, and by the 1970s was regarded by many as one of its suburbs. Matupit was one of the most prosperous villages in PNG, where Tolai people enjoyed a peri-urban lifestyle and, by PNG standards, a comfortable standard of living. This prosperity was paid for by wage labour in town and...

  9. Chapter Four Clan-Finding, Clan-Making and the Politics of Identity in a Papua New Guinea Mining Project
    (pp. 57-72)
    Dan Jorgensen

    At Independence in 1975 the famously diverse peoples of Papua New Guinea (PNG) became citizens of a country without any particular sense of national identity apart from an unevenly shared colonial history. Creating such an identity was one of the tasks the state felt obliged to shoulder from the beginning, and adopting the language of tradition was one means of doing so. While there is a rhetoric of localised ‘custom’ (kastam) in popular discourse, the state takes care to package its version of tradition as a bundle of values specific to no particular place but putatively shared by all. Dubbed...

  10. Chapter Five From Agency to Agents: Forging Landowner Identities in Porgera
    (pp. 73-96)
    Alex Golub

    In Luigi Pirandello’s 1921 play Six Characters in Search of an Author the characters in a nineteenth-century story of family conflict are cast out of their creator’s imagination and wander in search of an author who will allow them to complete the telling of their story. The bourgeois melodrama they embodied was exactly the sort of play that Pirandello was reacting against, but the deeply reflexive theatre that resulted when the family conversed with directors, actors, and each other about the nature of artistic production is a supreme example of Pirandello’s modernist art. In this space of meta-theatre he could...

  11. Chapter Six Incorporating Huli: Lessons from the Hides Licence Area
    (pp. 97-116)
    Laurence Goldman

    According to Stirrat (2000: 31), the practical or pragmatic impact of reports written by anthropologists working as development consultants ‘is in many ways irrelevant’ because such reports are assessed on aesthetic criteria generated by the culture of modernity and their structure is pre-ordained by the interests of the client who commissions them. If the point is to attain ‘closure’ rather than ‘dialogue’ (Henton 2000: 586), then the author of such reports may come to feel that they are being used much as a drunk uses a lamp-post — for support rather than illumination. For their part, clients often suspect that the...

  12. Chapter Seven The Foi Incorporated Land Group: Group Definition and Collective Action in the Kutubu Oil Project Area, Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 117-134)
    James F. Weiner

    In this paper I examine the genesis and progress of the Incorporated Land Group (ILG) in the Kutubu oil project area of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The ILG is a legal entity empowered by legislation passed in 1974 to give legal and formal recognition, protection and powers to customary landowning groups in PNG (see Fingleton, this volume). In the Kutubu oil project area, at the instigation of Chevron Niugini Ltd (CNGL), the previous managing partner of the Kutubu Joint Venture, the Foi, Fasu and Lower Kikori River clans became incorporated under PNG’s Land Groups Incorporation Act 1974 (LGIA) and now...

  13. Chapter Eight Local Custom and the Art of Land Group Boundary Maintenance in Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 135-174)
    Colin Filer

    A variety of agencies engaged in the business of developing (or even conserving) the natural resources which are located on, in, or underneath the huge swathe of customary land in Papua New Guinea (PNG) must also deal with the absence of any systematic record of the social or territorial boundaries of the ‘land groups’ which are generally thought to be the collective owners of such land. The strategies which they adopt to make amends for this deficiency are shaped, not only by those national laws and policies which apply to the ownership of customary land, but also by those which...

  14. Chapter Nine Determinacy of Groups and the ‘Owned Commons’ in Papua New Guinea and Torres Strait
    (pp. 175-198)
    John Burton

    The means of owning and managing customary land (also known as traditional land) in Australia and the Pacific has been treated in many ways in the century and a quarter since Sir Arthur Gordon’s initiatives in Fiji (France 1969) — the first large-scale attempt to accommodate native ownership in the framework of a Western system of administration.² In Australia, discussions of the essence of native title, the local vehicle for customary ownership, have been framed in terms of a ‘recognition space’ where Western law and customary law intersect but remain separate. However, I deal in this paper with cases where this...

  15. Chapter Ten Outstation Incorporation as Precursor to a Prescribed Body Corporate
    (pp. 199-222)
    Katie Glaskin

    On my first journey to northern Dampierland Aboriginal communities in 1994, many members of those communities spoke to me about ‘making a claim’. I had travelled there to speak with Bardi and Jawi peoples about the native title claim a group of elders had legally instructed the Kimberley Land Council to begin preparing on their behalf.² Within a short time I realised that when people spoke to me about ‘making a claim’, and when I spoke with them about the native title claim, we were referring to different matters. They were speaking about outstations and the process of incorporation under...

  16. Chapter Eleven The Measure of Dreams
    (pp. 223-246)
    Derek Elias

    Currently, in the Tanami Desert of Australia’s Northern Territory, in excess of seven million dollars in mineral royalties may be distributed to Aboriginal communities and individual Aboriginal people each year. This royalty money can fluctuate markedly from year to year depending on variables such as the success of exploration, the price of gold, mining company expenditure, and the rates of production in terms of mass and quality of ore from both the pits and the mining plants themselves. The money, commonly referred to simply as ‘royalties’, is primarily paid out by mining companies and is subject to legal agreements made...

  17. Chapter Twelve Laws and Strategies: The Contest to Protect Aboriginal Interests at Coronation Hill
    (pp. 247-272)
    Robert Levitus

    In recent decades, Aboriginal affairs in Australia have been punctuated by disputes over development projects proposed in the vicinity of places attributed mythological significance by local Aboriginal peoples. Noonkanbah, Coronation Hill and Hindmarsh Island have been the biggest of these, attracting intense national political attention. In such disputes, law, party policies and interest group campaigning serially interact through the sometimes prolonged stages of the associated political process. This chapter selects one theme from the management of the Coronation Hill issue, which ran its long and tortuous course from September 1985 to June 1991. It focuses on the early stages of...

  18. Chapter Thirteen A Regional Approach to Managing Aboriginal Land Title on Cape York
    (pp. 273-298)
    Paul Memmott, Peter Blackwood and Scott McDougall

    In 1992 the High Court of Australia for the first time gave legal recognition to the common law native title land rights of the continent’s indigenous people.² The following year the Commonwealth Government of Australia passed the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA), which introduced a statutory scheme for the recognition of native title in those areas where Aboriginal groups have been able to maintain a traditional connection to land and where the actions of governments have not otherwise extinguished their prior title.

    Native title as it is codified in the NTA differs from Western forms of title in three significant...

  19. Index
    (pp. 299-306)