'Single Noongar Claim' : a (re)construction of the Noongar community through native title claim in the south-west of Western Australia

Abstract : The Native Title Act 1993 and the Yorta Yorta jurisprudence 2002 enable Aboriginal people to make legal claims over a territory they 'traditionally' owned and which is on crown land. To do so, the claimants have to prove that they are the direct descendants of the 'society' that owned that territory at the time of the acquisition of sovereignty by the British Crown and that they have maintained a cultural continuity with their forebears. These requirements imply that they still form the same 'traditional society' respecting the same laws and customs. In this context, the concept developed behind the term 'society' imposes a frozen-in-time conception of Aboriginal groups that is removed from the social reality and deprives them of their capacity to adapt, their fluidity and flexibility (Dousset & Glaskin 2007). In 2003, the Noongar Aborigines lodged the 'Single Noongar Claim', a legal claim over the south-west of Western Australia. As part of that claim, the Noongar community has embraced the notion of 'society' and defined itself as a 'Noongar society'. With the help of anthropologists and historians, they have proved that they constitute a single society that has survived since white settlement in 1829 and whose members are interconnected and share the same language, customs and beliefs, connection to land and bounded territory. Native title is an arena where power relationships evolve around the definition and imposition of concepts. The diverging conceptions of land tenure, belonging and space developed by the Federal government through native title legislation and by the Noongar will be discussed as they raise many interrogations. The question of why the government is imposing a stigmatising conception of 'society' on native title Aboriginal claimants and the reasons for its being so far removed from reality will be addressed. The Noongar's reclaiming of this term will also be examined to understand what/who their definition of it includes or rejects. This presentation will argue that the Noongar's decision to lodge a single land claim is a political process through which they try to re(construct) themselves and gain some power.
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Contributor : Virginie Bernard <>
Submitted on : Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 11:56:11 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 1:30:37 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00823897, version 1



Virginie Bernard. 'Single Noongar Claim' : a (re)construction of the Noongar community through native title claim in the south-west of Western Australia. Appellation(s) / Naming, Labelling, Addressing - Congrès SAES 2013, May 2013, Dijon, France. ⟨halshs-00823897⟩



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