By Dr Fran Humphries

First Annual Law Futures Centre Conference

What is your vision for Northern Australia? An innovation hub? A self-governing territory? A world treasure supported by Indigenous-led place based development?

Twenty-two experts on Northern Australia came together in November to explore their visions and reimagine the ‘Future of Northern Ecological Governance and Regulation’ at the first annual conference of the Law Futures Centre (LFC).

This ‘reimagining’ took place across four round tables that analysed the four themes of the LFC’s Northern Australia Law Futures Program — achieving integrated governance; overcoming compartmentalised regulation; embracing diverse values in development; and using a broader knowledge framework for Regulation.

Her Honour Fleur Kingham, President of the Land Court of Queensland opened the conference with an inspiring speech that talked to the gap in northern discourse between aspirations and outcomes and between principles and actual decisions. She shared her insight into how the judiciary fits within the four conference themes and identified some important gaps in research around the Environmental Rule of Law and what this means for the north.

The four round tables produced lively debate, ranging from blue-sky thinking for a ‘Northern State’ and ‘re-framing Ecologically Sustainable Development principles for the North’ — to more grounded thinking around place-based development, a polycentric approach to resource management and supporting interaction between scientific and Indigenous knowledge for research, decision-making, policy and law. Conference outcomes included some key strategic areas for further research and avenues for future collaboration and partnerships.

Our experts came from diverse backgrounds, sharing a range of perspectives. Our moderators for the four round-tables were Professor Allan Dale (Cairns Institute, James Cook University), Ms Clare Martin (Chair, Territory Natural Resource Management), Dr Kate Andrews (Executive Officer, NRM Regions Australia) and Professor Stuart Bunn (Director, Australian Rivers Institute).

We would like to thank our expert panellists for a robust and productive discussion:

Professor Ruth Wallace (Director, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University), Mr Vin Lange (CEO, Centrefarm Aboriginal Horticulture Ltd), Professor Mick Dodson (Director, National Centre for Indigenous Studies, ANU), Mr Grant Maudsley (President, Agforce), Mr Mark Coffey (Head, Office of Northern Australia), Professor Bill Fogarty (A/C Deputy Director, National Centre for Indigenous Studies ANU), Dr Wendy Craik (Chair Climate Change Authority), Professor Lee Godden (Director, Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, Melbourne University), Mr Jeremy Fisher (Principal, Kingfisher Law), Dr Christine Lauchlan-Arrowsmith (Group Manager, Water Technology), Associate Professor Sue Jackson (Australian Rivers Institute), Dr Richard Brinkman (Research Program Leader, AIMS), Dr Marcus Barber (Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO), Dr Jane Addison (College of Business, Law and Governance JCU), Dr Philippa England (Law Futures Centre), Ms Heron Loban (Law Futures Centre) and Dr Chris Butler (Law Futures Centre).