A founding member of the National Native Title Council (NNTC), Kimberley Land Council (KLC) has withdrawn from the NNTC, saying the Council “lacked teeth”.
CEO Nolan Hunter said KLC’s choice to leave was in large part due to the power of the group being squandered as the NNTC focused on the technical over the political.
“We spend our time focusing more on the technicalities of the Native Title part of the discussion, rather than the political power of an organisation to lobby and really start to put pressure,” he said.
“What’s the value of having a collective of representative bodies if we’re just focused on being a technical-based discussion group?
“My view is that we need to be more political around the advocacy … I think they were too worried about upsetting the apple cart.
Hunter said the NNTC didn’t really “flex [their] muscle” when it came to activism and political advocacy.
“Changes in Australia … occur when Aboriginal people politically agitate to create change,” he said.
“What was the value of the NNTC coming together if you don’t attempt to ruffle a few feathers?”
“I just think it lacked the kind of teeth, nobody wanted to rock the boat.”
Hunter said while the KLC is known to “rock the boat and upset a few people” to get results, he didn’t get the sense the NNTC saw the real value of being a national lobby group.
“It’s really hard because I understood the work with the technical submissions [but] I really don’t think we’ve asserted ourselves politically as a body that could influence,” he said.
The CEO said throughout history, every time change has occurred, it’s when Aboriginal people went to court.
“Mabo is a classic example. If we just relied on technical engagement, that wouldn’t have happened. You have to do battle, you have to go to court,” Hunter said.
“Every time something’s happened, Aboriginal people have had to go and fight.
“Understanding the nature of the beast is about the battle we have against the system.”
Hunter also said the NNTC had regressed and was focusing on outcomes that didn’t align with their original objectives.
“What I really was concerned about was when the organisation started to … head off in a direction that may be in competition with what Prescribed Body Corporates [PBCs] want,” Hunter said.
He said the KLC had concerns around the NNTC becoming too commercial.
“We don’t want to see the NNTC telling us its focus is about … its own survival, its own capabilities—when the entity becomes more important than the [PBCs],” he said.
Speaking of an April NNTC proposal to commercialise and pool legal resources across the Native Title sector, Hunter said although the KLC were on board with some of the discussions, they had some concerns.
He said the KLC was worried it wouldn’t be sustainable long-term and that it could potentially reduce the capacity of PBCs.
“I wanted to make sure that it [was] about the PBCs developing their business … [more] than it is about developing the NNTC’s business,” Hunter said.
For now, Hunter said the KLC will focus more in its regional capabilities and what it can do for its members and Aboriginal people across the Kimberley.
“[We have to] keep rocking the boat … I think the KLC expected more from the NNTC.”
NNTC CEO, Jamie Lowe, declined to comment on the departure of KLC from the Council.
By Hannah Cross