Peter Sutton is an anthropologist widely experienced in helping Aboriginal people to reclaim their land, he has often witnessed the flexible political forms mobilised in Aboriginal peoples' decisions about land:
'Political responsibility...is always highly contextual. Such responsibility is normally defined in terms of the making of decisions and the asserting of rights and interests. The size of a decision casts the political net to a certain size also. For example, where the issue is whether or not to allow a dirt track to be graded into a waterhole over a few hundred metres, the pool of responsible Aboriginal people making the decision can be expected to be quite small, unless the waterhole is, say, a site of major ritual importance on a Dreaming track that connects a chain of groups over a few hundred kilometres. There, the "traditional owners" of the waterhole may well defer politically to the acknowledged senior exponents of the ritual complex concerned, whose core countries may lie some distance away on the same Dreaming. If, however, the decision is about allowing a major development that will transform a whole region, many groups may again be involved, even where the development site itself may be wholly on one small clan estate and affect no named or focally sacred site. So not only may the 'politically responsible group' be defined in relation to the character of the land itself, but it may also be defined in relation to the scale of events on the land.'
Keywords: anthropology, dreamings, land boundaries, land ownership
'Country: Aboriginal boundaries and land ownership in Australia', Peter Sutton, Aboriginal History Monograph 3, Canberra, 1995, p.42.
Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor
Source: Sutton, Peter