Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee: Report 2022-23

The Hon. T.T. NGO (12:12): I move:

That the 2022-23 annual report of the committee be noted.

The Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee's functions include reviewing the operation of three acts: the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013, the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act 1984 and the APY Land Rights Act 1981. The committee can also inquire into matters affecting the interests of the traditional owners of the lands. It also looks into the manner in which the lands are being managed, used and controlled. Other functions include inquiring into matters concerning the welfare of Aboriginal people.

The committee has traditionally visited many Aboriginal lands and communities. It has also held strong relationships with the Aboriginal landholding statutory authorities. Speaking with representatives from those communities and statutory authorities allows the committee to be updated on current issues.

During the 2022-23 year, the committee continued with its two active inquiries: the Aboriginal governance inquiry and the Aboriginal heritage inquiry. The Aboriginal governance inquiry did not receive any further written submissions after the committee readvertised the inquiry in May 2022. On 15 November 2022, the committee tabled its final report, which contained four recommendations. These recommendations focused on increasing accountability for a state-based trust containing public moneys under the Trustee Act.

The committee was impressed with the Western Australian charitable trusts legislation after meeting with the Western Australian Attorney-General, the Hon. John Quigley. The committee also recommended that the previously introduced amendments to the Associations Incorporation Act be reintroduced in order to increase the transparency of Aboriginal incorporated associations for community members.

The majority of the reporting period focused on the committee's Aboriginal heritage inquiry. This inquiry dated back to February 2021 when the committee resolved to inquire into Aboriginal heritage issues. As outlined previously to the council, the inquiry looked at the operations of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, and how Aboriginal heritage is managed in this state. The destruction of Indigenous heritage sites at the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia sparked reviews of Aboriginal cultural heritage protection across the commonwealth and states, including this jurisdiction.

As I have mentioned, the inquiry received submissions from 36 stakeholders, and the committee received oral evidence from 27 witnesses. On 13 June 2023, the committee tabled its final report on the Aboriginal heritage inquiry, which contained recommendations to review the current Aboriginal Heritage Act, and for the minister to consider wide-ranging amendments.

Without repeating my earlier speech, I would like to reiterate the importance of this inquiry, with recommendations aimed at protecting the ancient cultural heritage for future generations of First Nations people. The committee was grateful for the evidence provided by traditional owners, who came and told us their concerns regarding their land and waters. The committee thanks all stakeholders who made a submission, including Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, and the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee.

This annual report is the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee's final report to be tabled in the Parliament of South Australia. The committee wishes to acknowledge the support and assistance it has received from Aboriginal communities and organisations throughout the past 20 years. The committee deeply appreciates the generosity and openness in sharing time, community, culture, and personal stories.

The numerous trips to Aboriginal communities made by this committee enabled a connection with First Nations people that could not be achieved by solely holding meetings in metropolitan Adelaide. The committee also sincerely thanks those who travelled to Adelaide to discuss issues of importance with the committee. It was through the contributions made by First Nations people that the committee gained a clearer understanding of the lived experiences of Aboriginal children, families and communities.

I thank both former and current members of the committee for their significant contributions to this important committee over the past 20 years. I would specifically like to mention the current members of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee: the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC; the Hon. Laura Henderson MLC; the member for Giles, Eddie Hughes MP; the member for Heysen, Josh Teague MP; and the member for Newland, Ms Olivia Savvas MP. I also thank the staff of the committee for their assistance over the past 20 years. I commend this report to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. L.A. Henderson.