ACCESS Seminar: Land Rights 2.0: Unearthing Aboriginal Futures as/with Urban Development

Dr Naama Blatman, University of Western Sydney

In this paper I build on ongoing fieldwork with a Local Aboriginal Land Council in Western Sydney to lay out what they/we refer to as ‘Land Rights 2.0,’ namely an agenda of land repossession, activation and development that
re-forms Aboriginal life in the city. The life that transpires through Land Rights 2.0 re-affirms an Aboriginal temporal and spatial continuity that predates and will outlive the colony. The paper shows that counter to much critical scholarship that considers private property as prohibitive of Indigenous futurities, the ownership of land as private property by a Local Aboriginal Land Council becomes an enabler for plans, visions, and aspirations of Indigenous futures to emerge and materialise. Moreover, land ownership brings to the fore the varied ways that Aboriginality survived in the urban landscape and built environment amidst aggressive and ongoing colonial commodification. In illuminating the unsettling effects of private property – which is held by and for Aboriginal people – the paper destabilises critiques about the ‘true’ nature of property (as exclusively dispossessory) and raises crucial questions about Indigenous futurities in and against the capitalist urban economy.

Dr Naama Blatman is a non-Indigenous Israeli academic based on unceded Gadigal land, in so-called Sydney. She is a Research Theme Fellow at the Institute for Culture & Society, Western Sydney University, and an Urban Studies Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2020-2023). Her research applied collaborative, archival, and ethnographic methods with Indigenous communities to probe the histories, realities, and desired futures of settler colonial cities in Australia and Israel/Palestine. Naama’s research focuses on questions of property, housing, Indigenous land rights and carcerality in cities and she is currently undertaking a collaborative research project with Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council in Western Sydney. Naama previously held a lecturer position at The University of Sydney and worked as a visiting lecturer and researcher at James Cook University, Townsville.