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Aboriginal Land Council - Return of Lands in World Heritage Area


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 16 June 2022

Tags: Aboriginal Tasmanians, Aboriginal Heritage, Land Returns, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Tasmanian Forest Agreement

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS, Mr JAENSCH

In his last state of the state address, then-premier Gutwein committed the Government to receive and consider proposals for further land return.  The Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania immediately lodged a formal claim for the return of Crown land inside the boundary of the World Heritage Area as the kooparoona niara Aboriginal National Park.  Almost a year-and‑a‑half and three letters later, the land council has not received a response nor any acknowledgement from your Government. 

In their Pathway to Truth-Telling and Treaty report, professors Warner and McCormack recommended the return of land inside the boundary of the World Heritage Area as the kooparoona niara Aboriginal protected area.  Instead, what we have is a proclamation on the table to change the tenure of those lands, mostly to low-grade reserves, seven years after the World Heritage Committee recommended they be given national park status.  Your Government is ignoring UNESCO as well as the land council's claim and the truth-telling report. 

Will you today show your Government is serious about the return of lands and commit yourself and the Premier to sitting down with Aboriginal Land Council to ensure those lands are returned to their rightful owners?

 

ANSWER

Mr Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Greens, Ms O'Connor, for her question.  In a similar conversation we had across the Estimates table, I committed the Government to responding formally to the Aboriginal Land Council on this and a range of other matters they have written to us on.  I reject the characterisation that there has been absolutely no response.  The former premier met on at least one occasion, possibly two, one with me present, to talk with the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania regarding their claims.

In terms of the Future Potential Production Forest Lands (FPPFL) in question and the process of returning them, we are obliged to reclassify them and assign them an appropriate reserve status under instructions, under obligations from UNESCO and the World Heritage Council.  Under normal circumstances our most urgent priority and obligation is to respond to the World Heritage Council.  We have had a longstanding commitment to do that, we have run a consultation process on that.  My colleague, Mrs Petrusma, is the minister responsible for carriage of that process and has been doing what we said we would do. 

I am advised that our obligation to assign an appropriate reserve status to these parcels of land makes no difference at all to our ability to subsequently consider land return, management agreements or formation of different types of reserve classifications for that land.  They are separate obligations which we are prepared to meet.

We have overdue time frames for the World Heritage Council obligation and we are acting on that.  We have a request for consideration by the Aboriginal Land Council and we are also working through the detail of that.  I am sure we will have more discussion on that. 

My advice at this stage is that the particular classification of land they are referring to does not currently exist in our legislation.  We would need to create it.

We are prepared to continue to work with the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania and other Aboriginal organisations on their priorities for land return while, in the meantime, we acquit our responsibilities to the World Heritage Council and we complete our review and amendment of the Aboriginal Land Act as well.