That the 2022-23 annual report of the committee be noted.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (18:06): I rise today to speak to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary
Standing Committee annual report for the year 2022-23. I reiterate what I have previously said in this
place: I am excited to see this committee wound up and to be given the benefit of this parliament
having a State First Nations Voice to Parliament so that the interests of First Nations people in our
state are better represented. However, I would like to take this time to reflect on the work of this
committee and its achievements over a number of years.
Mr President, you would be well aware that you have been a longstanding member and,
indeed, Presiding Member of this committee. Other members in this place are the current Presiding
Member, the Hon. Tung Ngo, and also over time the Hon. Mrs Henderson; the Hon. Russell Wortley;
the Hon. Ian Hunter, I believe; the Hon. Kyam Maher, both in his role as a member of this place but
also as minister; and myself over some 13 years since I first came into this place.
Certainly for myself, the stolen generations reparation compensation scheme would not have
come to fruition without the work of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee. It would
not have been implemented had that committee not taken on what was then my private member's
bill, moved back in 2010 and referred to the committee by the Hon. Stephen Wade, which saw a
two-year inquiry into the stolen generations in our state and an exploration of compensation options.
That led, of course, to the Liberal opposition actually coming up with their own private
member's bill—moved by you, I believe, Mr President—moved by the Hon. Terry Stephens, which
then eventually led to the Labor government finally taking up, creating and delivering a stolen
generations reparation or compensation scheme—real outcomes for those who had been impacted
by the horrors, the errors, of the stolen generations.
I thank all those members of the community, particularly the Aboriginal community, who over
many years have contributed their time and effort to informing the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary
Standing Committee of various issues through the years.
I note that the committee changed in its composition. It was established originally as a
standing committee that had the minister, then Minister Terry Roberts at its inception, possibly even
before the days when the Hon. Kyam Maher went on to work for him. At its inception, it was designed
to be a cross-party collaborative committee to assist the minister to undertake his or her role in a way
that was truly bipartisan, tripartisan, cross-party, to take politics out of these really, really difficult
I think the committee did, by and large, work that way, but it certainly saw a time when having
the minister on the committee—which was something unusual about the Aboriginal Lands
Parliamentary Standing Committee—had had its day and was no longer serving the purpose it was
intended for. It went on to unceremoniously dump the minister from the committee and create a
structure where a presiding member was drawn from the Legislative Council.
It has always been a standing committee of the Legislative Council, probably by virtue of that
historical fact but also as a reflection of the Legislative Council being truly diverse in its composition
and the government never having held the numbers in this chamber. There were roles for the
opposition and crossbenches enshrined in the act prior to our repeal of it in recent months.
One issue I want to particularly note and reflect on, and on which I believe the committee
worked long and hard, is that of on-country dialysis, in particular the work of Purple House and its
on-community work. Again, through that good cross party work—hard work, conversations,
education, persistence and continuing to push; I see the honourable President having empathy with
my words there—we finally saw breakthroughs in delivery of on-community dialysis on APY lands,
and, I am pleased to say, in Coober Pedy and Yalata in coming months.
The work of Purple House and the former Nurse of the Year who leads Purple House,
Sarah Brown, is extraordinary work, difficult work, in challenging locations and in a challenging
situation. I was proud that the committee was able to work with Purple House to cut through the
bureaucracy and persist, persevere, and get that done.
We were extraordinarily privileged to have excellent secretarial and research support over
the years. Again, it was a different committee in that the secretary was also the researcher; many
committees have both a secretary and a researcher, but for this committee the role was seen as
having a very specialised scope of practice. Over the years we were blessed to have some
extraordinary individuals in that role, and I would like to pay tribute to a few of them.
Most recently we had Mrs Lisa Baxter, who has been very professional and provided us with
her particular legal expertise as we undertook the governance and most recently the heritage inquiry.
Prior to that, I believe members would be very familiar with Shona Reid, who is now the guardian in
this state but who was previously an executive secretary for this committee. Before my days—but
perhaps you might remember, Mr President; certainly I know there is a story about ice creams being
bought on a hot day—we had Jonathan Nicholls who, of course, went on to work for a project called
the Paper Tracker, which long held governments accountable for the promises they made,
particularly to Anangu people.
Most recently, this committee has reported on our Aboriginal heritage laws, again with an
extensive inquiry over several years and two parliaments. In South Australia we really do have much
work to do in this area, and I have to say it is pretty outrageous that the best native title agreement
making process we currently have in this state is under part 9B of the Mining Act, which offers better
protections for native title groups and traditional owners than other legislation. We have a long way
to go, and I hope we will be walking that path.
That legislation and this state still does not take its obligations to protect heritage, both
tangible and intangible, seriously, with even with government departments, in recent weeks, making
decisions that I believe show our protections are not what they should be. Other examples, like
Torrens, Kimba and Nilpena Ediacara National Park are all examples of sites where we have not
listened to First Nations people in the way that we should. The bureaucracies have not, the
governments have not and the needs of corporations or even our own government and departments
have outweighed the significance of traditional sacred sites and storylines.
Members might be aware that, since 2008, there has been review after review into the
Aboriginal Heritage Act. Indeed, when I first came in here in 2010 I remember the review of the
Aboriginal Heritage Act, which was underway at the time and had been stalled. In particular, there
have been amendments from 2016, which removed the ability for Aboriginal people to require the
minister to delegate their powers, and that was inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975
and the Native Title Act 1993, and worsened the level of protection and preservation of Aboriginal
heritage which, of course, is the basis for having an Aboriginal Heritage Act.
These amendments have now left us with an act that has silenced Aboriginal people's
decisions over their heritage, something that I would have thought we might have been able to agree
on at some point in the near future, particularly if we do have the strength and the wisdom of an
Aboriginal Voice to Parliament to remind us not only of their voices, but also to educate. Certainly,
the status where we have almost eliminated guidelines for mining companies and which Aboriginal
people they need to consult, leaving unclear time lines and legal uncertainty in the process of this
act does need to be addressed.
Our laws do not give traditional owners the right to appeal a ministerial authorisation and
currently only landowners have the right to cause a review of a decision of the minister under
Aboriginal heritage laws. The series of events that led to the blast of Juukan Gorge, and now even
more recently the Hamersley Ranges, highlights the danger of a legislative framework that has no
One of the joys of the travel and the committee's work, Mr President, I think you will agree,
was seeing the art centres and the wonderful work, particularly women led, but certainly not only
women, and particularly on APY lands. I do note that I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition
last week at the APY Art Centre Collective Adelaide gallery, just outside the city on George Street at
Thebarton. There, I heard the stories in terms of the paintings of Lisa Khan. I was touched by her
stories of country, of noodling for opals as a child in Coober Pedy and how her connection to country
withstands the distance because she is now based in Adelaide. Her ability here to interact and to
continue and practise her art with her mother will continue those storylines.
Lisa moved to Adelaide when she was young because her parents wanted her to have a
better education. It is a very common story for many in remote communities, but she let us know in
her artist talk that every time she returns home she feels the embrace of her connection the second
her feet touch the ground. Lisa and her family are not alone. Many First Nations people do leave
remote communities for better opportunities in education and employment, but often out of necessity
for health care.
I have been privileged to work with Country Needs People, a not-for-profit group that is
working on a campaign calling for state and federal governments to double the number of Indigenous
rangers to help harness traditional knowledge, connection to country and access to modern scientific
conservation methods to create a win-win for the environment and the wellbeing of communities'
First Nations people. Opportunities like this will not only boost local economies, but they are vital in
helping preserve and celebrate Indigenous culture, language and links with country.
There is still much work to be done regarding empowering First Nations people in our state.
We know that the life expectancy for First Nations people in remote and very remote regions is
14 years lower than those of non-Indigenous backgrounds. We know that First Nations Australians
are significantly over-represented in our criminal justice system, where First Nations young people
aged 10 to 17 are four to six times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be approached by
police. These, of course, are not just statistics—every single number is a human being with hopes
and dreams who demands better from us.
We have an obligation to every person in this state to do our very best in providing them with
the best outcomes, and I believe we will get those outcomes by listening. First Nations people have
been traumatised by generational actions and policies of subsequent governments and peoples in
denying them their rights and traditions to live peacefully according to their spiritual, cultural and
sovereign legal rights under these laws.
I wanted to reflect and note that this is the final report of this committee—not the one the
Liberals spoke to a couple of weeks ago; that was actually about the review of the Aboriginal Heritage
Act—and that this is a committee that under the Liberals' proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament
was scheduled to be a conduit to that Voice.
The idea originally, when the then Premier came and spoke to me about it, was that he had
not had time and the Liberal opposition, due to COVID in particular but certainly with Commissioner
Thomas, had not had time to roll out the necessary consultations to set up the First Nations Voice
before the previous election, so as a halfway house the Liberal proposal was to set up a First Nations
Voice and for that Voice to work with the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee.
This is a committee of non-Aboriginal people, by a large, not of Aboriginal people, but it was
never intended to be a long-term solution, and it was never intended by the then Liberal government
to be an ongoing situation. It was always intended as something that was a stopgap measure
because they had not had enough time under COVID, and the restrictions that COVID had placed
on the ability to consult, to properly set up a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
I find it extraordinary that then Liberal members on the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary
Standing Committee in the past year refused to have a briefing when I moved to have a briefing from
the current First Nations Voice commissioner. They did not want to hear from him, did not want to be
informed about the consultations and then, by the time they were ready to discuss the Malinauskas
government-led Voice to Parliament it was too late, because the bill had already been introduced
At that point, according to the standing orders and the advice from the Clerk, we were then
unable to have the First Nations Voice commissioner come in and talk to us and tell us about the
legislation, because we had not wanted to hear from them when they were actually having their
I find it extraordinary to be standing here also with a committee that under a previous Liberal
Presiding Member forgot to lodge several reports over several years. So I will not be lectured to by
the Liberal opposition about how important this committee is when they have not got up to speak to
this report. They did not read the previous report, going by all reflections of their speeches, and not
a single one of them has put themselves down to speak to this today.
With that, I look forward to the First Nations Voice to Parliament. I do hope all members of
parliament will actually listen to it. I do hope that they will reflect and recognise that a parliament
committee of non-Aboriginal people is not a First Nations Voice to Parliament. A First Nations voice
to a committee is not something that actually passes the pub test when you try to tell people out in
the public, 'You can go talk to a committee' as opposed to 'You can go talk to the whole parliament
and indeed have access to cabinet and have access to chief executive officers of the particular
departments you're most interested in, whether that is Human Services or Health or, of course,
Aboriginal Affairs—but it may be the arts and the arts centres.'
So I find it a little rich to have had the conga line of Liberal opposition members in the last
sitting week all get up and speak to what was an inquiry into the Aboriginal Heritage Act by this
committee, totally missing the point of what that review covered, and then, here today I am the only
one other than the Chair, the Hon. Tung Ngo, who has got up and spoken to this report of this
committee that apparently the Liberal opposition would like to keep, even though when they were in
government they were the ones who actually came up with the idea of winding it up under the
leadership of Steven Marshall, the member for Dunstan and then Premier.
I did enjoy my time on the committee at times. There is a story about ice creams that I will
save for another day. There are many stories from this committee that I think over many years saw
Aboriginal affairs lifted and us work together, and I hope that that is the spirit that we will welcome
the new elected First Nations Voice to Parliament when they go through their processes in the future.
With those words, I commend the report.