2021 AIATSIS Summit

 In Message Stick

The 2021 AIATSIS Summit was co-convened with the South Australian Native Title Services (SANTS) and Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation (KYAC) on Kaurna Yerta land at the Adelaide Convention Centre in South Australia. Those involved in native title will be familiar with AIATSIS’s regular National Native Title Conference and National Indigenous Research Conference. This was the first time both conferences were held together over five days, which by all reports was a success.

Being the first such event post-Covid, I think everyone who attended can commend the work AIATSIS, SANTS and KYAC put in to ensure delegates’ safety in what is now becoming our new, socially distant normal. A flow on of such requirements also meant limited impacts on the environment with programs, brochures, and other paper material all but non-existent throughout the week. The conference’s Event App was used for registration, program details, speaker bios and even provided access to some of presentations ahead of time.

The Summit theme ‘Footprints for the future — Tracking our journey together’ focused on five key areas across each of the five days: Community, Truth, Treaty, Voice and Country.

The morning plenaries didn’t disappoint, with the likes of The Honourable Ken Wyatt AM MP, Professor Megan Davis, June Oscar AO, Gail Mabo and Tony McAvoy addressing the crowd. One standout speaker and fresh face to the conference was Marlikka Perdrisat. Marlikka, a Nyikina Warrwa and Wangkumara Barkindji woman has attained her Bachelor of Commerce and is completing her Juris Doctor in Law, with the promise of starting her Postgraduate Doctorate in 2022.

Marlikka is the Chair of Beyond Empathy, which collaborates with communities across Australia to shift perceptions and generate positive social change through the process of creating and sharing art. She is also a digital storyteller and researcher with the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council and employed with Gilbert + Tobin as a paralegal.

Marlikka shared her story of growing up on the western edge of the Northern Savanna “surrounded by culture, cowboys and academics” and completing her studies in law. She spoke of the privilege she had growing up with a traditional culture of sustainability and how she went from writing academic papers to share her knowledge, to writing colloquial papers for mainstream media outlets like Junkee and Financial Times, to now developing short films. She is certainly one to watch in the coming years.

Gail Mabo opened day four of the summit on Thursday 3 June – Mabo Day. It was 29 years to the day that Mer Island man Eddie Koiki Mabo was successful in his efforts to overturn the legal fiction of terra nullius, or ‘land belonging to no-one’ in the Mabo and others v Queensland (No 2) (1992) case. Ms Mabo, daughter of Eddie Koiki Mabo, spoke of the importance of being in the presence of elders. To listen, learn and acknowledge all that they have endured and accomplished. She also shared that at the time her father was deemed a crazy man, that what he was fighting for was “too farfetched”. He would ask community organisations for donations, go around door knocking asking families for contributions and using every spare penny the family had. One old man from Belgian Gardens still has his receipt today from the $20 donation he gave, which he now has framed. The receipt reads “Thank you for your donation to fight for this cause. E.K.Mabo”.

For those interested in watching all the plenary sessions, AIATSIS have uploaded the videos to their website: https://aiatsis.gov.au/2021-aiatsis-summit-presentations.

This summit hosted by AIATSIS is the only Australia-wide event that brings together the likes of academics, government, NTRBs, service providers, PBCs and other community organisations to collaborate in the challenges of the native title and research sectors. “I really enjoyed attending the AIATSIS Summit in Adelaide recently, catching up with old activist friends who fought for our land rights alongside many of our Elders including my mother, Dr Evelyn Scott OAM, who have since passed on. The highlight for me was listening to the speech of our Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO regarding moving forward on the social justice issues that are still affecting our people today.  The very reason we are looking to restructure the North Queensland Land Council is to have a voice on these issues in our vast footprint” – Sam Backo, NQLC Chairperson.

It was a chance for our Board and Legal Officers to interact with other NTRBs and service providers around Australia. To meet Traditional Owners and PBCs from other regions and see how they are utilising their native title to benefit their families and communities and gaining advice on overcoming certain challenges. “I have been to a number of these conferences over the years and it’s so pleasing to see the many aboriginal organisations that first presented in their infancy, now flourishing through self-determination and good leadership”. Graham O’Dell, NQLC Principal Legal Officer.

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