Letting Indigenous people talk about their country: cross-cultural (mis)communication in a regional forest agreement process

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Boyd, WE 2004, 'Letting Indigenous people talk about their country: cross-cultural (mis)communication in a regional forest agreement process', Proceedings of Institute of Australian Geographers Conference, Adelaide, 13-16 April, Institute of Australian Geographers, Glenelg, SA.


The Mabo and Wik decisions changed the reality of Indigenous claims and access to land in Australia, resulting in governments incorporating native title rights into land ownership and management systems. They reinforced the need for consultation with Indigenous people, particularly if a decision may extinguish access rights. This is a basis of culturally-sustainable environmental management. However, many Indigenous communities are rarely consulted on the decisions leading to gazettal and subsequent management regimes. Furthermore, Indigenous people often cannot participate effectively in western-based planning systems. We examine a case study of the consultation processes prior to and following the establishment of the South East Queensland Forests Agreement, focusing on government agency staff action and the participant community member reaction. The case study falls into the rubrik of Bhabha‚s 1994 interstices, the location between cultures where cultural identity is created, and provides a practical example of the processes of inter-cultural communication between official bureaucratic and legalistic Western and dislocated and re-empowering Indigenous cultures. We identify and describe practical forms of cultural interaction, and the degree of miscommunication possible under such circumstances. We close on cultural and social processes that may alleviate this in the future