What is the Government’s Process for Treaty?

In Parliament, Questions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:19): My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister outline the process for Treaty that his government intends to implement in South Australia and also detail whether it will involve legislation?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:19): I thank the honourable member for the question and her longstanding interest in this area. Similarly to the supplementary the honourable member asked about the Voice process, this will involve significant consultation.

When we were last in government, the then Weatherill government committed to a treaty process with Aboriginal South Australians. The process that led to starting that involved, I think, what was at the time the most comprehensive consultation there had been with Aboriginal South Australia—some dozens of community meetings; I will have to go back and check, but I think there were some hundreds of responses to written consultations. That then started a process where there was an expression of interest with individual Aboriginal nations to start Treaty discussions. As a result of that expression of interest process, Treaty discussions were held with Aboriginal nations—three Aboriginal nations in the first instance.

It has been four years now since those Treaty processes were scrapped. Where once South Australia was leading the nation in this area, we have now fallen behind. Victoria is now well along the path of its Treaty process as well as its First People’s Voice to Parliament process. The NT is now well on the way to its Treaty process. The Queensland government has committed to a treaty process and, if there is a change of government, New South Wales will also join them.

Also, in the intervening time there has been the south-west land and sea agreement with the Noongar of south-western WA, which I think most people, including federal minister Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, has recognised in almost all forms as being a treaty agreement.

Given the progress around Australia, we think it wise to not just re-start where we left off—and of course capacities have changed in nations over the last four years—but to consult widely and broadly. Of course, it is overlaid with our ambitions for a Voice to Parliament.

In response to the honourable member’s question, it is a piece of work that we are starting, but there is again a lot of consultation that is required. One thing I am absolutely sure of is that any significant reforms in the area of Aboriginal affairs or policy with Aboriginal people only works if Aboriginal people are heavily involved in those decisions.

There is a body of work to do in terms of consultation but also looking at where other states and territories are at. Of course, if there is a change of government this coming weekend, there is a commitment from, if it were to be, an incoming federal Labor government to start a treaty process as well.