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Assist in the resolution of disputes with respect to land, as appropriate.

Various types of disputes in the CLC region have some link with land. Analysis of disputes affecting CLC constituents indicates there are four broad, interrelated categories: those based on land and traditional ownership; competition for money or resources; family matters; and individual behaviours.

The CLC has statutory functions under both section 25 of the ALRA and section 203BF of the Native Title Act to help resolve disputes that relate to land; however, disputes within each of the identified categories affect the CLC’s functions.

There are a growing number of communities and groups in the CLC region where conflicts (some arising as a result of a dispute over traditional ownership of land, including group composition and boundaries) are causing stress and anxiety for traditional owners and other Aboriginal people. These conflicts make it difficult for the CLC to fulfil its duties to them.

The CLC developed a traditional owner dispute management framework and an engagement strategy aimed at managing these functions better. They are being implemented within the 2018–2022 corporate plan. The framework reflects the following principles:

  • the empowerment of Aboriginal groups, families and individuals to identify and manage their own disputes
  • a reduced reliance on the CLC or any external parties in relation to mediating disputes
  • a policy of ‘wait to be asked’ for assistance but respond in
  • a consistent and timely manner, recognising that a timely response can lessen the likelihood of exacerbation of a dispute
  • the recognition that disputes are part of systems and structures where numerous external parties and factors are likely to be causing or exacerbating disputes
  • the recognition that the work of the CLC may unintentionally cause or exacerbate a dispute
  • the recognition that getting the decision-making processes of the group right is a major preventative measure
  • a determination that engagement processes should do no harm.

CLC support is conditional on the disputing parties demonstrating a commitment to managing a dispute, and that the CLC may withdraw ongoing support, services and resources where parties are not committed.

The CLC executive is briefed about the progress of dispute resolution processes and advised when any parties repeatedly breach agreed processes or show little or no interest in resolving a dispute. The executive committee may decide to withdraw CLC services from the disputing party or parties for a period of time. To ensure that disputes are not exacerbated by the identification of those involved, disputes are not the subject of individual reports.

Anthropological advice informs the mediation or resolution of minor ongoing issues. During 2019–20 anthropologists contributed advice in relation to seven disputes and completed a report addressing traditional ownership issues. One dispute is the subject of further research and consultation.