Mr Ed Wensing

PhD scholar

BA (Hons) (The Australian National University)
LESD Cte (Canberra Institute of Technology)

T +61 2 6125 0709


Topic or working title

‘Land Justice for Indigenous Australians: Can the two systems of land ownership and tenure co-exist, equally and peacefully?’

Abstract or summary

There are two distinct systems of law and custom in Australia: that of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the other brought to Australia by the British colonisers in 1788. Despite the numerous Aboriginal land rights schemes established between the 1960s and the 1980s and the High Court of Australia’s landmark decision in Mabo (No. 2) in 1992 and the enactment of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), Australia still does not have a system of implicit recognition of the prior and continuing ownership of land and waters by its Indigenous Peoples (customary owners) according to their traditional law and custom.

Ed’s argument is that the two systems of land ownership and tenure can co-exist alongside each other respectfully and justly, and his research examines the conditions for commensurability. Ed is taking a fresh look at the recognition space as an ‘intercultural contact zone’ between the two culturally different systems (the customary land rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the Crown’s land tenure system), posing it as emergent, unpredictable and yet conducive to both contestation and alignment, and what conditions are necessary for a constructive alignment and a just and respectful co-existence between the two systems.

Of particular interest to Ed is the extent to which equitable co-existence might be achieved without necessarily having to alienate and permanently extinguish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ customary land rights and interests. Ed’s thesis will provide a cohesive analysis of both systems, at national and jurisdictional levels, in order to provide an overarching framework within which to investigate how these issues play out on the ground in Western Australia, where two case studies are examined, and what conditions are necessary for a constructive alignment and a just and respectful co-existence between the two systems.

Panel members and positions

Panel Chair:
Professor Mick Dodson, Director of NCIS and Professor at the ANU College of Law.

Primary Supervisor:
Dr Lisa Strelein, Director of the Native Title Research Unit at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies and Adjunct Scholar at NCIS.


  • Associate Professor Garrick Small, Faculty of Arts, Business, Informatics and Education, Central Queensland University.
  • Dr Libby Porter, Associate Professor and VC's Principal Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University.


Ed Wensing holds a Land & Engineering Survey Drafting Certificate awarded by Canberra Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) gained at The Australian National University. He is an experienced urban and regional planner, policy analyst and academic with extensive involvement in the public, private and the tertiary education sectors over the past 40 years, with responsibility for policy development, program administration and implementing legislative change in many different fields, including urban and regional planning, integrated local area planning, natural resource management, historic and cultural heritage management and native title rights and interests. Ed has also held senior positions in the private sector as an Associate of SGS Economics and Planning and as Director of his own planning and land management consultancy firm, Planning Integration Consultants Pty Ltd. Ed has also made significant contributions to the tertiary education sector through visiting lecturer and research positions at The Australian National University, Griffith University, the University of Canberra, the University of New South Wales and James Cook University, especially in the field of Indigenous issues in contemporary urban and regional and environmental planning.

Ed has worked extensively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities around Australia on a range of matters including native title, cultural heritage and natural resource management. For example, from 1997 to 2003, Ed was responsible for producing guidance materials and training resources to assist local government to work with native title by linking native title to Council processes, and for developing a resource guide for local government on how to develop agreements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. In 2011-12, Ed completed a major study for the Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs to investigate options for land tenure reform on the Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) estate, including assessing whether an existing tenure model available under the Land Administration Act 1997 (WA) (or other WA legislation) is able to support Aboriginal aspirations for home ownership and for economic development on the ALT estate, or whether a new tenure model is required to deliver such benefits, and if so, to provide the elements of that tenure. This project included four case studies in the Kimberley and involved working very closely with the relevant native title holding bodies and the Aboriginal communities.

Ed currently holds positions as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, a Visiting Fellow at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), and a Visiting Lecturer in the Urban and Regional Planning Program, University of Canberra. He is also the Director of Planning Integration Consultants Pty Ltd.

» see Ed Wensing's professional profile on ORCID

Updated:  23 December 2016/ Responsible Officer:  NCIS Project Coordinator/ Page Contact:  NCIS Administrative Officer