Aborigines make up by far the largest proportion of the long-term residents of the Kimberley region and much of the population living outside the major towns. They already control, by one means or another, considerable areas of land. The Native Title Act 1993 offers the possibility of greater control still. They have a network of community-controlled functional organisations such as medical services, radio stations, service delivery resource agencies, cultural and language maintenance centres, and a publishing house. Not surprisingly with Canadian models before them and the example of the Torres Strait Regional Authority, the mood is growing among these organisations, in the communities, and with the political leadership, for greater regional autonomy and a form of Aboriginal governance in the region. This paper analyses the various pressures for a regional authority under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), a regional agreement or various sub-regional agreements over multiple land use, and a form of regional Aboriginal governance. It points out the distinction between these three approaches to regional autonomy. It suggests that the need for the first is being driven by pressures for multiple access to land, while the proposal for the second is simply a means of more efficient delivery of Commonwealth development funding and may in the long term act as an impediment to greater autonomy. The third, regional governance, embraces the first two needs and goes beyond them to respond to the longstanding need, sharpened since the Mabo decision, for a new form of political accommodation between Aborigines and settlers in the Kimberley.
ISBN: 0 7315 1763 6