First Nations universally desire to replace the current top-down system of control and dependence, with processes and structures that empower decision-making at the grassroots level.

Conflict and tension across multiple Indigenous interests is often structurally embedded and reinforced, rather than being effectively reconciled and harnessed for collective impact.

  • Fragmented governance and decision-making currently disempowers the grassroots.
  • Pama Futures builds clearer, more cohesive decision-making across the three streams.
  • Empowerment co-design and decision-making must be broad and participatory.
  • Land Rights decisions must continue to respect that traditional owners have the full say.
  • Good decision-making in both the Land Rights and Empowerment streams is required to support Economic Development decision-making.

Decision-making in Land Rights, Empowerment and Economic Development

The first priority of Pama Futures is empowering the grassroots.

This means accommodating multiple, overlapping and intersecting Indigenous interests—including the interests of individuals, families, clans and First Nations, and Indigenous organisations—in a way that builds responsibility, capability and empowerment, abides by the principle of subsidiarity, is as inclusive as possible, and respects cultural authority.

For example, when it comes to participating in and making decisions about the community and its future, including in terms of services and budgets, everyone residing in the community should be able to participate and have a voice.

Cape York’s 17 Indigenous communities are artefacts of the mission-era and residents include traditional owners and those who have multigenerational historical and residential association with the community.

There are also a diaspora of people living in places such as Cairns that continue to have an interest in their home community and their ancestral lands.

Those living elsewhere may also wish to participate in some decision-making about their community and/or ancestral lands from time-to-time, and they should be included or involved via family discussions and arrangements.

Pama Futures has introduced a new focus on planning and organisation at the level of the 12 sub-regions of Cape York.

The sub-regional focus contrasts with the usual approach which focuses almost exclusively on Indigenous communities.

A new focus on the broader sub-region is needed so that the land surrounding communities is better included in planning processes.

Areas of land surrounding communities where Land Rights are recognised must form a significant part of the development story if people are going to reduce their dependence on government and sustain themselves from their land.

Communities remain important, indeed, they are key focal points within each sub-region. The map presented here is an example of how sub-regions might form to develop local agendas – but communities will decide how best to work together.