The University of Adelaide has been awarded $133,000 to pioneer a national curriculum to train more native title experts in Australia and address a critical shortfall in the field.
The funding, awarded to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, was announced this week by Federal Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, at a native title conference in Townsville.
Dr Deane Fergie, a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Adelaide, says there is a pressing need for training in native title anthropology because most of the expert practitioners in this area are nearing retirement.
"A demographic crisis is looming in native title expertise, so academic training is urgent," Dr Fergie says.
In 2011, the University received more than $250,000 from the Federal Government to develop the Australian Native Title Studies program and a physical and virtual hub for native title anthropology at the University of Adelaide.
Over the past year, the University has hosted five Australian Native Title Study Fellows - trained anthropologists - to mentor, develop teaching materials, write papers and exchange knowledge on native title issues.
Additional expertise in the field is expected to reduce the backlog of native title claims across the country, although the Federal Court and Attorney-General's Department in South Australia has taken a lead in expediting cases before the courts.
The curriculum is expected to be finalised by 2015 and will be developed by academics from several universities (including the ANU, the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, La Trobe, James Cook University and the University of Western Australia) and coordinated at Adelaide.
"We intend to develop a suite of postgraduate awards delivered as distance education with a combination of online and intensive on-campus study," Dr Fergie says.
"Under this model, the University of Adelaide will be the awarding institution and Adelaide and other universities will contribute units to the postgraduate program."
The University of Adelaide native title anthropology team is spearheaded by Dr Deane Fergie and Dr Rodney Lucas who lead the Locus of Social Analysis and Research (LocuSAR) team.
They have led teams which have researched and provided expert reports on a number of recent native title claims, including Eastern Maar in South West Victoria; the Gawler Ranges; Dieri (Cooper Creek region); and Arabunna (Lake Eyre).
Updated 12 June 2012