You are here

Nature Conservation Act 2002 - Approval of Proclamations

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 27 October 2022

Tags: Parks, kooparoona niara/Great Western Tiers, Aboriginal Heritage

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, on the amendment. I listened very carefully to the debate and what different members said. I make a point reflecting on what the Leader of the Opposition, Ms White, just said about the frustration of the Greens. This is not a frustration of the Greens.

Ms White - I didn't say it was a frustration of yours.

Dr WOODRUFF - You did at one point.

Ms White - I said of ALCT.

Dr WOODRUFF - No, you also previously said you understand why this is frustrating for the Greens.

Ms White - No, I never mentioned you once.

Dr WOODRUFF - The point is, we are not here speaking for ourselves. We are here on behalf of ALCT bringing their concerns to this place. They are concerns that they have in good faith repeatedly tried to raise in specific instances about this area of land for over 18 months. Actually, it is probably more like 20 months. It is concerning that despite the different ways it has been presented, the different ways that Ms O'Connor particularly has tried to answer and respond to the minister's comments, he still maintains a deliberate vague and woolly language around what the Government's intentions are.

The purpose of the amendment is really to try to bring the Government to make a firm commitment about a number of things it has been gesturing to, because while the gesturing goes on, the clock is ticking and land is not returned. That is a matter of the deepest sadness for Aboriginal people, especially when they can see this incredibly special area of land which is absolutely ripe to be returned to them, after all these hundreds of years since it was first stolen, so that they go back and participate in the life and cultural practices on that land, care for that land as they have done for millennium.

It is a simple amendment that tries to pin down a comment that the Government has made in-principle support for the concept of an Aboriginal reserve class and also that it may apply to the area known as kooparoona niara. This level of lack of clear public commitment from the minister to establish an Aboriginal-owned reserve tenure and to return that land by a certain date is exactly why we are here and exactly why we are moving this amendment. We seek some clarity on behalf of the Aboriginal people, on behalf of ALCT who have tried in good faith and done their best to get some clear language and some certain time frames. Let us be clear: the decision of the minister to proceed in the manner that he is, is about the convenience for the Government. It is not about the best interests of the Aboriginal people.

Again, I take the minister to account. It started with Mrs Petrusma and her letter in which she made a number of statements. She stated the argument for why it was not possible for the Government to return that previous FPPF land as an Aboriginal-owned national park, in her view. Her letter implied that the proclamations are a necessary, or at least a desirable, step towards land returns.

It is not true that the land cannot be contemplated until the land is reserved because the Government can do whatever it likes. As Ms O'Connor said, this process of establishing an Aboriginal-owned tenure class reserve was started over 10 years ago and the Government has deliberately not continued with that process over the last year. It is not true that the proclamations are required before a return could occur. That is misleading. The land remains subject, at the moment, to the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forestry Industry) Act 2014 until it is reserved and it would sit, as it currently does, within the World Heritage Area. Nothing is going to happen to it.

There is no rush to do it this way. It is convenient for the Government to appear to be acting but solving the problem of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee's requirement that the Government tidies up the 'scrappy little bits of land', as the minister calls them, and sorts the tenure out, is a lower order issue to deal with than properly managing, in the process of tidying that up, to creating them as a national park and returning them to Aboriginal people as Aboriginal land.

Let us be clear: I am really confident that if the minister met with the UNESCO reactive monitoring mission today, they would say, 'That's okay. Just leave it there until you have sorted this out'. It is more important to sort out the issues for the original owners, the First Nations people, who have cared for that land for over 40 000 years, far longer than a UNESCO committee, far longer than the Government of Tasmania, far longer than when white people came here and stole it from Aboriginal people.

They have the first go. It is a much more important to deal with this issue when it comes to creating the Aboriginal land class than it is with the time frame of a responding to the UNESCO committee that the Government has already decided, quite happily, to delay for seven years. That is a faux argument and it is designed to be misleading.

What we could have, with these beautiful pieces of land, instead of having a whole bunch of separate regional reserves or conservation areas, instead of having the Dogs Head Hill Regional Reserve, the Great Western Tiers Conservation Area, the Liffey Conservation Area, the Southwest Conservation Area, the Stringybark Conservation Area, the Borrowdale Regional Reserve, the Central Plateau Conservation Area, the Dove River Forest Reserve, the Fabray Plains Regional Reserve, and the Mersey River Conservation Area, we could have the kooparoona niara Aboriginal-owned and Managed National Park.

That is exactly what the Pathway to Truth-Telling and Treaty report recommends - the report that the Government is meant to be acting on, that the minister is meant to be taking his marching orders from, essentially, when it comes to issues like this. This is the real consultation process that was undertaken that is relevant to the decision that has been made today.

It was a comprehensive consultation with Aboriginal people around Tasmania. It was undertaken by two of the most august and respected people in the state, Professor Tim McCormack and Professor Kate Warner, previous Governor of Tasmania. And their recommendation was the creation of the kooparoona niara Aboriginal protected area.

They made it very clear that there were numerous models elsewhere in Australia for the national park that could be established and that it should include the PBFL lands we are discussing today. And if vested in, there could be conditions established relating to the direct management with the local Aboriginal community in the management plans for the park itself. The point out that such an Aboriginal park could serve as a model and would serve as a test of local management and access.

That is why we have moved this amendment. Despite the minister's vague language, at the moment, there is no commitment to a certain date for creating an Aboriginal-owned reserve tenure. He is not hostile, he says, to doing this but it is meaningless words, words, words if there is not a date and there is no cast iron commitment. Every time he talks about it, he slides away from clearly saying the language we 'commit to creating this new Aboriginal owned reserve class and that we commit to doing it by a certain date'.

That is the sort of certainty that the Aboriginal community want to hear, who are desperately waiting to hear. It is beyond disrespectful for the minister, at this opportunity, not to make it clear the Government's intentions.

Please be honest, minister, and if it is your intention not to do it, then please say that. Please explain to people. I am getting tired of being in this place and hearing you and other ministers not being straight with Tasmanians. Tell people what you are planning on doing or not doing.

Recognise the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania's claim in March last year, to create kooparoona naira/Great Western Tiers inside the TWWHA and support the return of kooparoona naira to ALCT by creating a new reserve tenure of an Aboriginal owned national park or protected area.

That is the least you can do. It would be the first step in 17 years towards land returns. It would be the first step from your Government and it would exactly what is required by the treaty and truth telling process which you are responsible for leading, minister.