Legislative Council: Tuesday, September 26, 2023



The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON (15:14): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs concerning comments he made in this chamber last week.

Leave granted.

The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON: On Wednesday 13 September 2023, the minister told the chamber that the process to restart Treaty negotiations will commence after the elections for the South Australian First Nations Voice have occurred. Professor Megan Davis, one of the Uluru Statement architects, has stated, and I quote:

The treaties are about reparations for past injustices and they are about land and they are about resources.

In March 2023, Teela Reid, a prominent yes campaigner, called for reparations and compensation to be paid to Indigenous Australians. My questions to the minister are:

1. Do you agree with Professor Davis' statement that treaties are about reparations, land and resources?

2. Do you support the payment of reparations and compensation to Indigenous Australians?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:15): I thank the honourable member for her question. I can remember answering very similar questions four or five years ago when the Hon. Rob Lucas was on the other side of the chamber and might have even been in the same position that the honourable member sits in—almost identical questions back then when we started Treaty negotiations in, I think, 2016.

I will give a very similar answer to what I gave then. We are one of the only jurisdictions of those that we compare ourselves to that didn't even attempt any sort of agreement with Indigenous people when the land was colonised. We are some 230 years overdue to look at agreements with the First Nations people of Australia. I am not going to stand up here and rule out and in how those negotiations might play out and how those negotiations might occur, as I didn't do that way back five or six years ago when the Hon. Rob Lucas invited me to do so.

As I have said previously, we will wait for the Voice body in South Australia to be elected to give us some advice on processes going forward and then that is what we will continue to do. One thing I do know, from about a year and a half or so of Treaty discussions that we had when Labor was previously in government, is that many different people have many different views over what these sorts of agreements may or may not contain.

The discussions developed and were quite well progressed with three Aboriginal nations in South Australia, as I think I have said before: Adnyamathanha, Narungga and Ngarrindjeri. Many of the things that came up in those discussions were things to do with what the government would do in terms of provision of services in education in particular, in health and in the justice systems. We look forward—as our commitment is to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart—to restarting those Treaty discussions once the Voice is elected.

Unlike last time we started them in this state, we are not alone in this endeavour in Australia. Victoria is well developed and have had their second elections for the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria, the elected Treaty negotiating authority. Tony McAvoy SC has handed down the report, as the acting Northern Territory Treaty Commissioner, on the way forward for the Northern Territory. Queensland has a Treaty process underway and the new New South Wales Labor government has committed to a Treaty process.

The former Liberal government in Western Australia, with the South West Native Title agreement (the Noongar settlement), in all but name entered into a Treaty with the peoples from the south-west of that state. This is not something we are alone in endeavouring to do, endeavouring to right historical wrongs, and I look forward to the day when we get started again.