Abstract

In 2003, anthropologist Professor Peter Sutton wrote, “To demand of a kin-based society that it produce simple, stable and definitive lists of rights and rights-holders in land and waters is ethnocentric,” and “codification, at least for many such groups, is itself contrary to their own laws and customs.” However, despite warnings by Sutton and others, the structuring of native title and related claims and determinations have continued just as warned against. It is argued here that this phenomenon is the result of attempts to accommodate the demands of non-Indigenous political, legal, and economic structures to have simply defined groups and consequent corporate identities that are recognizable to, and controllable by, dominant non-Indigenous structures. The consequent corporate identities, the Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBC), are a modern version of the system of king plates of old and more needs to be done to ensure recognition of complex traditional law systems.

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