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Aboriginal Lands Act Reforms

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 14 September 2023

Tags: Tasmanian Aboriginals, Land Returns


The Tasmanian Aboriginal community is rallying outside parliament today. They are angered at your land act bill, which subverts the right of Aboriginal people to determine how they manage returned land. As minister, it gives you the power to pick which land is returned and which people get to manage it without involving the new land owner.

Land returns can happen now, but it is your Government that is stalling them. The community is outraged at your failure to progress heritage acts reforms to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage. There is a torrent of development threats now to Aboriginal cultural heritage, including plants from the South Coast Track and Robbins Island. Privatisation and exploitation of the environment and of Aboriginal cultural heritage is accepted collateral for your Government's endorsed developments.

Why do you not listen to the community that you swore to represent? Will you set aside reforms to the land act and instead protect Aboriginal heritage and have the guts to go out and talk to the community today?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question. As I outlined yesterday, we are in the third round of consultation on reform and amendments to the Aboriginal Lands Act, in response to very strong feedback we have had that the act, as it stands, is deficient in that it does not provide a clear and transparent process by which additional land can be returned to Aboriginal people.

We have also strong feedback from many in the Aboriginal community that the act, as it is configured now, does not work for them and they feel excluded from it. So, we are listening to Aboriginal people. The difference between us and you, Dr Woodruff, is that we are listening to all Aboriginal people -

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask the minister to withdraw that untrue statement. We are listening to the response from the Tasmanian Aboriginal community -

Mr SPEAKER - It is not a point of order. As I have said previously, if members do not agree with a point that has been made in an answer, there are other forms of the House that they can pursue. The minister has the call.

Dr WOODRUFF - Mr Speaker, I take personal offence and I ask the minister to withdraw that comment. It is offensive.

Mr SPEAKER - Minister, the member has claimed personal offence.

Mr JAENSCH - I did not intend to cause personal offence to you, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - Please withdraw the statement, minister.

Mr JAENSCH - I am happy to withdraw the statement.

It is incumbent on us as legislators to listen to all voices, and we do. We will listen to all Aboriginal voices and all non-Aboriginal voices in the process of getting our legislation right, so it does what it is meant to do. It does what it says on the packet, and it is fair and available to everyone it is meant to serve.

This is a difficult and sensitive issue. I respect that. I respect the views of all Aboriginal people who are having their say on these matters right now. We have been in a process of reviewing this model and identifying amendments to the legislation for around three years now.

Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker, Standing Order 45 on relevance. My question was about the heritage act, and why the minister will not listen to the community and progress their heritage act.

Mr SPEAKER - Again, it is not appropriate to restate the question. We are on time-limited answers so I will allow the minister to continue.

Mr JAENSCH - I will go to that part of the question. I can confirm for the House today that Tasmania's new Aboriginal cultural heritage protection act is now being drafted by the OPC, and we will be reviewing that first draft shortly.

The two processes have been working in parallel. We have also been consulting on the Aboriginal cultural heritage protection act over many years. The Aboriginal cultural heritage protection act is an entirely new act, whereas the Aboriginal Lands Act is a series of amendments to an existing act. Both processes have been running in parallel. We are now consulting on the exposure draft of the Aboriginal Lands Act -

Dr Woodruff - You are not listening to the community.

Mr JAENSCH - and the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Protection Act will be ready for consultation by the end of the year.