Thorburn, K. (2017). A regional governance structure for the Kimberley? Twenty-five years on from Crocodile Hole. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2017 (1), 86-98.
1991 a large bush meeting was held at Rugan in the East Kimberley, organised by the Kimberley Land Council and attended by more than 500 Aboriginal people from across the Kimberley. This meeting is looked upon as one of the most significant expressions of pan-Kimberley identity in the post-settlement era and generated considerable discussion at a regional level. This event, which has since become known as ‘Crocodile Hole’, occurred in the shadow of the failure of land rights to be passed in Western Australia in the mid-1980s, and the impending Mabo decision. This paper attempts to track the idea of a regional governance structure in the Kimberley since the time of Crocodile Hole and how this idea has articulated with wider political and policy trends in the region and beyond. It notes that principles identified by the Crocodile Hole meeting remain as core ideals for Aboriginal leadership within the Kimberley, yet the form and structure by which regional governance is being attempted has altered significantly over time. In a contemporary context, it concludes that such a structure would require particular characteristics to be deemed acceptable by Aboriginal groups across the Kimberley and to be engaged with by government.
regional government structure, Aboriginal leadership, Western Australia