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The Ngarrindjeri Nation and the IPOA model
The Ngarrindjeri Nation in South Australia has used IPOA principles to regain control of their future and help dismantle ongoing effects of colonialism:
“To structure our narrative of Ngarrindjeri nation building, we draw on Pacific Rim Indigenous nation-building principles identified in the work of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development: identify, organize, act… Applying these principles to the South Australian context, we identify key features of the Ngarrindjeri Nation’s pathway to securing a future in the face of intense and complex forms of colonization …
For Ngarrindjeri to identify, organize, and act as a sovereign First Nation requires a theorization of contemporary forms of South Australian settler colonialism, the identification of their genealogies, and a clear understanding of the actor networks or assemblages that reinforce colonizing relations of power.”
Ngarrindjeri have a clear, collective identity that has remained strong despite the impacts of colonisation. Drawing on this clear ‘self’, the Ngarrindjeri Nation have been able to create the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority (NRA). The NRA is the peak governance body representing the Ngarrindjeri people. It helps develop new ways of interacting with the state government and reasserting Ngarrindjeri agency.1Steve Hemming, Daryle Rigney and Shaun Berg, “Ngarrindjeri Nation Building: Securing a Future as Ngarrindjeri Ruwe/Ruwar (Lands, Waters, and All Living Things),” in Reclaiming Indigenous Governance: Reflections and Insights from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, eds. William Nikolakis, Stephen Cornell and Harry Nelson (Tucson: University of Arizona Press,2019), 73.
In 2006, the NRA came up with a ‘Vision for Country’. This vision became part of the ‘Ngarrindjeri Nation Yarluwar-Ruwe Plan: Caring for Ngarrindjeri Sea Country and Culture’.2Steve Hemming, Daryle Rigney and Shaun Berg, “Ngarrindjeri Nation Building: Securing a Future as Ngarrindjeri Ruwe/Ruwar (Lands, Waters, and All Living Things),” in Reclaiming Indigenous Governance: Reflections and Insights from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, eds. William Nikolakis, Stephen Cornell and Harry Nelson (Tucson: University of Arizona Press,2019), 74. This provides a plan for the Ngarrindjeri Nation in pursuit of self-determination and a healthy future:
“Early in its inception, the NRA developed a Ngarrindjeri Yarluwar-Ruwe (Sea Country) program to take responsibility for this Ngarrindjeri transformative strategy, acting as a contact point for all non-Indigenous projects and engagements associated with Ngarrindjeri Yarluwar-Ruwe. The work of this program is guided by the “Yarluwar-Ruwe Plan” that encapsulates the Ngarrindjeri approach to identifying as a nation, organizing as a nation, and acting as a nation …”
The Yarluwar-Ruwe Plan is just one element of Ngarrindjeri nation building. Caring for water and natural resources remains a central component of the NRA’s work. For Ngarrindjeri people, this nation building journey has also been part of a wider movement of Indigenous rights and recognition:
“From the 1970s on, Indigenous people in Australia began to pursue an agenda of self-determination, land rights, and treaties. Ngarrindjeri leaders prioritized a process of nation identification, internal organization, and collective action directed toward the development of a healthy future for Ngarrindjeri people and for Ngarrindjeri Ruwe/Ruwar.”
Another important aspect of Ngarrindjeri nation building has been the development of the Kungun Ngarrindjeri Yunnan Agreement (KNYA). This roughly translates to ‘listen to Ngarrindjeri people talking’. The KNYA contract was negotiated by Ngarrindjeri leaders and the South Australian state government. It’s an example of how Ngarrindjeri have come together and – through their governing structure the NRA – act as a nation:
“Through this system of agreements, the Ngarrindjeri Nation acts as a nation: it uses law and negotiation to assert its unceded sovereignty and to protect its interests while building viable relationships with other governments.”3Stephen Cornell, “Processes of Native Nationhood: The Indigenous Politics of Self-Government,” The International Indigenous Policy Journal 6, no. 4 (Sept 2015): 17, DOI: 10.18584/iipj.2015.6.4.4.
You can listen to Professor Daryle Rignrey, citizen of the Ngarrindjeri Nation, talk about Ngarrindjeri Nation building. Remember, your own nation building journey will require you to customise these elements to suit the needs of your group.