Ethnographic research and Aboriginal community consultation
There is a considerable overlap between the processes and issues involved in ethnographic research and Aboriginal community consultation.
For more information about ethnographic research, click here.
Engaging Aboriginal consultants or communities
You can engage Aboriginal consultants or communities through contacts in the local Aboriginal communities, referrals from DIA or individuals listed as Native Title claimants. The existence of a native title claim is seen as sufficient to establish an Aboriginal person’s ‘right to speak’ about heritage issues.
It is standard practice to pay fees to cover the Aboriginal consultants’ or community’s time and expenses associated with attendance. The applicant should negotiate the costs on an individual project basis with the Aboriginal people involved. There are no set fees and the fees requested by various Aboriginal community groups vary widely.
An ethnographic survey or Aboriginal consultative programme report should include full descriptions and discussion of:
- The selection of Aboriginal consultants, including
o detail of cultural affiliations to the land;
o personal knowledge about Aboriginal heritage issues; and
o claims that afford them the right to speak for the land.
- Survey and recording methods, particularly when site avoidance or work area clearance surveys are undertaken.
- Results of the field survey, including
o Ethnographic sites identified by survey (if appropriate); and
o Analysis and interpretation of field survey data.
- Aboriginal community assessment of significant sites.
- Balanced discussion of any conflicts that arose during the course of research and resolutions (if any) that were reached.
- Recommendations for the management of sites.
- An indication of how the contents of the report were communicated to the Aboriginal community.
It is important to note that during the course of community consultation sensitive cultural information may be divulged to the applicant. Generally the Aboriginal participants in a survey will not be identified in a heritage survey report. Professional anthropologists’ codes of ethics for the conduct of cultural research, the Australian Anthropological Society and the Anthropological Society of Western Australia require this, unless there is permission from the Aboriginal participants to do so.
Normally a confidential list of Aboriginal consultants is provided to DIA and the ACMC as part of the report. The applicant and consultant must ensure that this information remains confident within their organisation.
The time it takes to complete an ethnographical research report depends on the availability of the appropriate Aboriginal consultants. Aboriginal community events, native title case hearing schedules and more family oriented business (e.g. bereavement) may impact upon people's availability, at both a community and personal level. Set project timelines with this in mind and preferably after you obtain an indication of availability from the Aboriginal community.
As a consequence of condition attached to a consent to develop land on which an Aboriginal site exists, it may be necessary or desirable to consult with Aboriginal communities and involve them in a project on an ongoing basis.
When circumstances exist where there are Aboriginal heritage issues that require continuing management throughout a lengthy development process, it may be preferable to implement a more formal procedure. In this way, expectations on both the part of the Aboriginal community and the applicant can be established early in the process and all parties know that there is a particular forum in which they can raise issues regarding Aboriginal heritage.