Legislative Council: Thursday, February 08, 2024


Aboriginal Affairs

The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON (15:06): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs regarding Aboriginal affairs.

Leave granted.

The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON: The South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council operated as the government of South Australia's peak advisory body on matters of Aboriginal affairs, and it ceased on 30 June 2023 in anticipation of the establishment of South Australia's First Nations Voice to Parliament. My question to the minister is: given that it will be around nine months since the cessation of the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council by the time of the State First Nations Voice election, what has been in place that is equivalent to the council to advise the government on Aboriginal matters since 30 June 2023?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:07): I thank the honourable member for her question. I can well remember when the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council was set up. It was set up in South Australia after the then Howard federal government abolished ATSIC around about 2004 from memory, which left a void of representation, and particularly advice, to be provided not just to the federal government but also—I was working within Aboriginal affairs policy at the time—it left a void in terms of state government representations from Aboriginal people and Aboriginal communities.

It was after the abolition of ATSIC that the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council was set up in South Australia, and that operated up until June of last year. As members would be aware, it was our intention to have the South Australian First Nations Voice elections occur in September of last year; however, once the date of the federal referendum was announced for October, and after representations from elders right across South Australia, we and the Electoral Commissioner agreed that the elections would be postponed until this year, and they will be happening, as I have mentioned before, on 16 March of this year.

In the intervening period between the end of June last year and March of this year, there are many people who have continued to provide advice to the government. I know members, and former members immediately before its cessation, and people who have been on the committee before regularly access—they have had my mobile phone number for decades and continue to use it to provide advice to me and to the government. I know that advice has been provided on a range of issues through consultations we have held, not just on the First Nations Voice, but on a range of other matters.

But I think the fundamental difference we will see in the advice that was provided to government by the old South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council and the First Nations Voice to Parliament is that the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council was appointed by the government of the day; the First Nations Voice will be selected from and by Aboriginal people to represent their communities to provide advice to government.