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Call for Tasmanian Aboriginal Treaty

Kim Booth

Kim Booth  -  Monday, 26 January 2015

Tags: Tasmanian Aboriginals, Treaty

The Greens today called for a formal Treaty to be negotiated between the State of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

“Last week I wrote to the Premier, in his capacity as Aboriginal Affairs Minister, requesting he initiate good-faith negotiations with representatives from the Tasmanian Aboriginal community to deliver a meaningful Treaty,” Greens Leader and Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Kim Booth MP said, while addressing the Invasion Day rally held in Hobart.

“Unfinished business with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community is holding back our reconciliation journey,” Mr Booth said.

“Its time to Treaty.”

“We need to negotiate a formal Treaty which acknowledges the sorry history that has occurred on this island, and which seeks to address the current pattern of exclusion and discrimination inherent in our current state legal and policy-setting framework.”

“International examples of successful treaties highlight they are not merely symbolic but can make a real and practical difference to everyday life.  Treaties formalise rights and responsibilities, establish an agreed path forward towards mutual goals, and can fundamentally restore dignity to disposed First Nations.”

“Lack of action by the Commonwealth does not prevent the State from tackling its own reconciliation responsibilities by opening up good-faith treaty negotiations with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community.”

“Health, education and economic opportunities area as much State responsibilities as they are Federal, and therefore it is necessary and appropriate for the State to take the initiative and move to negotiate a Treaty.”

“The first step is to consult with the Aboriginal community over the appropriate mechanism by which a Treaty can be negotiated, its participants, and agreed timeframe for negotiations.”

“The agreed mechanism arising from this initial agreement would then be established, with recognised authority to negotiate a formal Treaty between the State of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.”

Mr Booth also reiterated the Greens’ call for Australia Day to be shifted to another date.

“Every year the issue of moving our national day of celebration to a day that unifies all Australians arises, and this issue will not go away.”

“I repeat the Greens’ call for the Premier to show political leadership, and formally raise the need to move the date from Invasion Day with his Federal colleagues,” Mr Booth said.


Background Information: to the Greens’ Proposed Tasmanian Aboriginal Treaty:

  • Lack of Commonwealth action does not preclude Tasmania establishing its own Treaty with Tasmanian Aboriginals.
  • Australia remains the only Commonwealth nation which does not have a treaty with its First Peoples.
  • Treaties in Canada, New Zealand, and the US are recognised as empowering their First Peoples to make decisions that affect them, and assist in improving their health and well-being, education and employment status and opportunities.  Research has also found that life expectancy statistics for First Peoples are far better in these countries which have formal treaties. [1]
  • New Zealand, Canada and the United States have treaties with their First Peoples.  Canada is still negotiating new treaties.
  • Internationally treaties are a recognised form of agreement which reaches a settlement between First Peoples and those who have settled on their land.
  • Successful Treaties are based on negotiation – not merely consultation. ‘Consultation’ is perceived as a one way process, whereas ‘negotiation’ involves parties coming to the table as equals who work their way towards agreement.
  • The national Treaty Project states that, “A basic feature of a treaty relationship is a mutual recognition of authority… Each side is recognizing the political authority of the other party to represent a community at the negotiating table. A treaty is also governmental in character because typically it deals with the shared exercise of decision-making authority.” [2]
  • Work conducted during previous national attempts to progress a national Treaty demonstrate that the process needs to include:
    • Step 1: Consultation with Tasmanian Aboriginal communities regarding the appropriate mechanism by which a formal Treaty can be negotiated, and to identify the necessary participants and timeframe.

    • Step 2: establish the agreed negotiation process arising from Step 1, and provide appropriate administrative resourcing as necessary, including the capacity to seek expert advice.

    • Public education and awareness campaigns will also be instrumental in delivering key goals of the Treaty, and to foster true reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Tasmanians.

    • Successful negotiations also build relationships based on trust and genuine communication seeking an understanding of other’s points of view. The process also offers important avenues for non-Aboriginal Tasmanians to come to terms with the challenges facing us all as a State.


[1]: Indigenous Health and the Treaty Debate: Rights, Governance and Responsibility; Sydney forum papers 2004.

[2]: Brennan, Dean: “Could a Treaty make a Practical Difference in People’s Lives? The Question of Health and Well-being”; The Treaty Project Issue Paper No. 4, 2004.