Homelands and resource agencies since the Blanchard Report: a review of the literature and an annotated bibliography

Author/editor: Davis, R, Arthur, W
Year published: 1998
Issue no.: 165


This paper reviews the literature produced since the Blanchard Report of 1987 with the aim of contributing to an understanding of the resource agencies which provide services to homelands. The majority of the literature is centred on the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia, reflecting the geographic distribution of homelands. Despite the fact that the Blanchard Report highlighted the importance of resource agencies for the homelands movement, there is little research which deals specifically with agencies and most of the references to them in the literature are merely tangential to works which focus specifically on homelands. The review covers issues relating to both agencies and homelands.

Resource agencies

The literature, though limited, suggests that resource agencies vary considerably in size and scope. Agencies may have only a few or a significant number of staff; they may provide a single service such as health or a range of services from accounting to house maintenance to managing a Community Development Employment Projects scheme. Similarly, agencies may exist purely to provide services or they may also act as a form of representative body with some having the appearance of small local governments. Resource agencies also have a variety of corporate structures; they may, for example, be stand-alone organisations or function as part of a community council and, in some cases, their functions may infringe on those of community councils, resulting in political tension.

Although the literature suggests that agencies may change over time as they take on more functions, little information is available on how or why these changes take place or indeed how agencies are established in the first place.

The literature makes reference to the various sources of funding that agencies access. These include Commonwealth, State and local governments, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and mining royalty agreements. However, there are no data which allow an assessment of the monies which agencies expend on servicing their respective homelands. There is also a lack of information about what factors influence the effectiveness of agencies although some reference is made to the advantages that might accrue from taking a regional approach to agencies.


Whereas in the late 1980s homelands could generally be defined as small decentralised communities of close kin, which were established often for cultural reasons, since 1987 they have come to take a number of different forms. This has led to some discussion about how best to define a homeland. Issues related to definitions include: population mobility; the permanency or otherwise of residents; seasonal influences; and the consideration of homelands as emerging communities.

Reference is also made to the relationship between homelands and the various State/Territory and Commonwealth legislation and land tenure regimes. Specifically mentioned are the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, Queensland's Aboriginal Land Act 1991 and its Deed of Grant in Trust land, and Western Australia's Land Act 1993.

Policy implications

Two principal findings emerge from this review of the literature which have implications for policy design. The first is that there is a shortage of information which can be usefully applied to the design of relevant policies for resource agencies. The second is that, from the limited information available, there appears to be some significant diversity amongst the types of resource agencies that exist across the country. This second point can also be said to apply to the homelands themselves. The issue of diversity is not always easily accommodated within national policies and this has particular implications for policy design.

ISBN: 0 7315 2600 7

ISSN:1036 1774

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