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Land Returns - Greens MPI

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 16 June 2022

Tags: Aboriginal Heritage, Land Returns, Tasmanian Aboriginals, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I acknowledge that I stand on the land of the palawa pakana people who have been responsible for caring for this land for tens of thousands of years.  I am sure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs makes the same acknowledgement at every occasion that he speaks in public in his role as the minister. 

Why we are here today is that acknowledgement means that that acknowledgement is just a form of words.  Where we are in the 21st century, after we have just had the report from the truth telling and treaty process from professors Warner and McCormack is that we thoroughly understand that Aboriginal people in Tasmania, lutrawita, require so much more than words.  They are sick of words.  They are sick of platitudes.  They are sick of promises that were made and broken, like the promise of Matthew Groom when he was minister in 2015 to adopt the recommendation of the UNESCO mission to create a national park and to formally attach those areas in the TWWHA, the unallocated land. 

They are sick of doors that are pretended to be open, but actually are slammed shut in their face.  The Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania was shown the deepest disrespect by this Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, this Government, under previous premier Gutwein and current Premier Rockliff, when they did not even have their letters responded to. 

As soon as premier Gutwein last year made the commitment in the state-of-the-state speech, where he said, 'Last week I committed to receive and consider proposals for further land return, and I want to be clear, this Government is committed to taking significant steps on our path to reconciliation.', the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania immediately wrote to premier Gutwein to let him know exactly what they had in mind, to put the Government on notice that significant steps towards reconciliation require changing the legal tenure of unallocated Crown land in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and allocating it to the Aboriginal community by returning it to their ownership throughout and creating a national path.  They made the point that the inclusion in the TWWHA presents no barrier to freehold return to Aboriginal ownership and management.  Their letter was not answered.  That point was reaffirmed by professors Warner and McCormack in their substantial body of consultation and research work they presented in November last year to the Government. 

Professors Warner and McCormack were also very clear that in Tasmania there have been no significant land returns since 2005.  Their statement completely contradicts what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs just said then, despite repeated commitments by the Government to return land.  They were very clear that the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area has listed cultural values that include Aboriginal cultural values.  They are the only cultural values recognised in the World Heritage listing of the TWWHA 

In response to the 2015 UNESCO reactive monitoring mission report, the Government recognised that the management of the TWWHA focuses too much on the natural values at the expense of attending to cultural values.  These values have been further threatened by the limited participation of Aboriginal people in its management and by the lack of recognition and opportunity for cultural practice.   Those were the words of professors Warner and McCormack in the Pathway to Truth-Telling and Treaty report from the Government's commitment in 2016.  A commitment they have failed to uphold. 

We have had a succession of premiers - Hodgman, Gutwein, Rockliff - who are all saying the words.  Every time they say those words, and do not taken action towards what real justice looks like, they are deeply disrespecting Aboriginal people.  They are hollow, cynical words, and it is shameful to have ministers of the Crown repeating what is essentially a lie - because they have no intention to do anything significant.  If they did, they would have taken up this opportunity.  This is a very significant opportunity presented by ALCT last year and they were not responded to.  They wrote again six months later - also not responded to. 

How can the minister pretend that there is any intention of taking this serious claim on board?  If he did, he would not waste parliament's time by bringing it back later.  We do not have time to wait for action on injustice.  The Tasmanian community, the truth-telling and treaty process that is in train, we want to have justice and reconciliation for Aboriginal people.  That requires the return of land.  We do not want to take any more time when when we have a recommendation from the Pathway to Truth-Telling and Treaty Pathway report that is abundantly clear, recommendation 12: 

The first Aboriginal protected area, the kooparoona niara Aboriginal Protected Area in the Western Tiers, including the FPPFL on the boundary of the TWWHA, should be declared.  Conditions relating to joint management with the local Aboriginal community and the management plans for the park should be made.  The first Aboriginal protected area could serve as a model and would serve as a test for local management and access. 

This is past time, which is why we will be moving to make sure it happens.

Time expired.