Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Question Time

South Australian Treaty

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:19): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs regarding a state-based Treaty.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Clause 8 of the First Nations Voice Act 2023 states, and I quote:

The provisions of this Act are intended to be read in conjunction with, and to complement, the provisions of any other Act that implements measures to progress Truth and Treaty, as identified in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

It was reported by SBS News on Tuesday 22 March 2022 that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon. Kyam Maher, stated, and I quote:

The new premier, Peter Malinauskas is absolutely committed to restarting the treaty process and picking up the other tenants from the Uluru Statement from the Heart...voice and truth.

An Inside Story article published in March this year stated the state government was expected to, and I quote, 'restart the treaty process later this year'. My questions to the minister are: has the minister restarted the Treaty process and, if so, what has been the nature of those discussions and with whom?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:20): I thank the honourable member for her question. As the honourable member correctly points out, it is a restarting of a process. It is a process that commenced I think in 2016, originally, in this state, when I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the former Weatherill Labor government.

That process culminated in very early 2018 with the signing of the Buthera Agreement, an agreement with the Narungga people of the Yorke Peninsula, the first agreement as part of a Treaty process that had been signed in Australia before. As part of that process under the previous government, we held Treaty discussions with Ngarrindjeri, Narungga and Adnyamathanha peoples and, as I said, had progressed along with Narungga to the signing of an agreement on the way to that process.

Of course, with a change of government, a change in what governments want to do, I think one of the first decisions of the former Marshall Liberal government was to scrap the Treaty process. We are committed to restarting the Treaty process in South Australia. Since we started in South Australia in I think it was 2016, the landscape has changed significantly in Australia after having been the first to start that process.

We now see Victoria well advanced with the second election of a First Peoples' Assembly in Victoria, which is a body that the government is discussing Treaty with in Victoria. We have seen a Treaty commissioner's report handed down in the Northern Territory, with the acting Treaty commissioner putting out examples of how Treaty might work in the Northern Territory, and we have seen Queensland progress their Treaty ambitions in that state.

In South Australia, as I have mentioned in this chamber before, we have agreed with suggestions about the sequencing of the Uluru Statement, with the Voice as the logical first component, and we have seen the passing of legislation earlier this year, as has been talked about in this chamber before.

Our ambition was to have the South Australian First Nations Voice elected and up and running by the end of this year. When the federal government passed the referendum machinery legislation and it became apparent that the referendum was likely to coincide within weeks of the elections for our First Nations South Australian Voice (and as it has turned out it would have been, I think, about two weeks' difference now that we know that the referendum is on 14 October), at the request of Aboriginal elders around South Australia, we delayed those first elections until March next year.

Once those elections occur next year, it is our intention that in discussions with the elected South Australian First Nations Voice, that will help us set out the process to restart those Treaty negotiations.