A version of this Topical Issue was provided as a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics Inquiry into Indigenous economic development in Queensland and review of the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010. The paper discusses Indigenous economic development in the context of the proposed legislation, Indigenous property rights, and the Federal Government's draft Indigenous Economic Development Strategy.
It makes four recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Taken at face value, and as a matter of principle, the Wild Rivers Bill should be supported because it looks to empower Aboriginal land owners with an unprecedented form of property as a special measure for their advancement and protection. The Bill though should be extended beyond wild river areas to all parts of Australia as proposed by the Australian Greens in their draft Native Title Amendment (Reform) Bill 2011.
Recommendation 2: Some considerable effort should be invested in unpacking the diverse meanings of 'Indigenous economic development', giving high priority to garnering the perspectives of Indigenous people, who are all too often treated by political and bureaucratic processes as passive subjects of the state project of improvement.
Recommendation 3: A body of current, historic, comparative and predictive research on development options in north Australia and in Queensland be brought to the attention of the House Standing Committee on Economics.
Recommendation 4: Careful consideration needs to be given to the mechanisms that will be used to secure the free prior informed agreement of land owners to a wild river declaration; and what mechanism will trigger the special property rights proposed for owners of Aboriginal land within a wild area.