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Place Names Bill 2019

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Tags: Legislation, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, the House and the minister will be well aware that when this bill was first tabled we raised a number of concerns about its content, the justification for it and particularly in relation to the proposed section 13, which is the heavy-handed section.

Since that point, the minister and his office have been quite keen to secure broad support in the parliament for this legislation. I thank the Surveyor-General, Mr Giudici and his team for the briefing that was provided to us a couple of weeks ago. I also thank the minister for doing something which was unheard of in the past term of the parliament and that is listen to concerns or criticisms that have been raised both inside parliament and in a broader community and respond to those concerns in a meaningful way.

I acknowledge the advocacy of people like Theresa Sainty and Heather Sculthorpe from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in relation to their concerns, which we also articulated, about the potential for this bill to capture Aboriginal people who use traditional names for a place which have not been formally approved by the Nomenclature Board. Also, our concern was that the bill would potentially capture people who had a slang name for a place, or a well-known colloquial name for a place, who may have been captured and faced a heavy penalty.

The issue within the clause is that through the misuse of a name there needs to be an intent to mislead or deceive. Now we have two amendments from the minister, in response to the concerns that have been raised and the advocacy, and particularly the amendment to clause 13, which is a doubts removal clause. I believe this deals with the concerns that have been raised.

I have cross checked this with some people in the Aboriginal community. There are enduring concerns in the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre particularly about this Government's approach to the dual naming policy but recognise that this amendment has responded to the issues that were raised and so the amendment is to clause 13 for the avoidance of doubt. Nothing in this section prevents the use of a traditional colloquial or comedic name for a place. If such a name is used in good faith and circumstances where the use of such a name is unlikely to mislead or deceive another person.

I noted before what Dr Broad said about Aboriginal place names and he gave a nod to the fragmentation of language and disputes within the broader Aboriginal community about the correct name for a particular place, the correct traditional name. I look forward very much to hearing what Ms Houston has to say about this issue, as a member of the pakana people.

I recommend to Dr Broad and to anyone else in this House who has not been briefed on the evolution of the reclaiming of Aboriginal language to develop palawa kani to see if you can get your hands on one of these very rare and precious books, which I treasure. I would lend it out but it would have to come back straight away, that is the mina tunapri nina kani [OK], the palawa kani dictionary. It makes it very clear that the process of reclaiming language in Tasmania has been a hard one. It has been persistent and rigorous in its academic application.

I want to read a little bit from the palawa kani dictionary, in the introduction. The introduction starts with nina tunapri mina kani 'do you understand what I am saying'? The response is mina tunapri nina kani, 'I understand what you say'. The dictionary, through its introduction, says:[OK]Back in 1909 and 1910, Aborigines living on the islands and others living on mainland Tasmania told an interviewer some words and sentences they still remembered from our original language.

On Flinders Island, these people were Harry Armstrong, Henry Beeton and his daughter, Amelia, and John Maynard and one of his daughters; and on Cape Barren Island, Phillip Thomas and his sister, Nancy Mansell. On the Tasmanian mainland many of the same sentences and words and some different ones, were still known by seven of Fanny Cochrane Smith's children - William, Mary Jane, Flora Amelia, Joseph, Sarah, Tasman and Frederick and Fanny's grandson, Gus, who lived with her as a child.

All the language remembered by these families was to do with everyday life and activities such as hunting and getting wood for fires and natural resources such as shells, food, plants and animals.

An interviewer, Ernest Westlake, went out into communities and recorded much of the same language from within the community, and from white people too, who had known or had contact with Aborigines. These contacts had been spread right across the state, some in the early days of settlement, many at Wybalena and putalina/Oyster Cove.

All those words and phrases remembered into the early 20th century match with older records of Aboriginal languages. The older records were written down by more than 20 Europeans, starting with the visit by Captain Cook to Adventure Bay in 1777, throughout the invasion, theft and colonisation of Aboriginal lands from the early 1800s and up to, and during, the prison camps at Wybalena and putalina/Oyster Cove from the 1830s to 1860s. Aboriginal people were driven off their lands to Wybalena on Flinders Island, later banished to Oyster Cove, where, as we know, depression, disease, death came with them. With the death of every Aboriginal person through that period, of course, came a fragment of language that died and a capacity for that language to be spoken and shared.

Culture and language are intimately connected. Some language survived. George Augustus Robinson and others kept writing down bits of language they heard Aboriginal people continuing to speak. As we know on Wybalena Aboriginal people were made to learn English.

For a long time, Aboriginal people thought the language was lost to them. But we know that was not true. Through this painstaking process of retrieval, Aboriginal Tasmanians were able to compile about 200 words, phrases and song fragments from the memories of over 30 Aboriginal people throughout the 20th century. Then these treasured pieces of remembered language were only fragments.

The greater reclamation and academic work to reclaim the greater part of palawa kani from other sources began. There were books and many unpublished archival documents containing written records made by early Europeans of many nationalities, who wrote down what they heard said by Aborigines and attempted to capture unfamiliar Aboriginal sounds in their own European spellings. Those spellings of words written by the recorders and since published by Plomley, Ryan, and other historians and writers, are not in themselves authentic Aboriginal words. But we use them as a starting point for bringing the words they represent back to as close to their original sounds and correct meanings as possible. The palawa kani Language Program was among the first in the country in which Aboriginal people ourselves learnt the necessary linguistic methods which have since enabled us to do all the language retrieval work on our own languages.

Madam Speaker, this 2013 dictionary I am holding in my hand is the culmination of decades of painstaking work and represents about two-thirds of all the vocabulary that exists. The second addition includes over 300 more words revived since then and many of these are names of places, so the work continues.

Let us look, for example, at a one of the first dual names that went through the process. Under a Labor-Greens government and a Greens minister for aboriginal affairs the Parliament of Tasmania, the people of Tasmania through their parliament, finally enacted Aboriginal dual naming. We were the only Australian state or territory that did not have an Aboriginal dual naming policy. One of the first places that was dual named was kunanyi/Mt Wellington, but when you go back and have a look at some of the different spellings of kunanyi which is spelt in palawa kani as kunanyi, it is pronounced in some spellings I have seen with a hard 'g' at the front - gunanyi.

Obviously there will be differences about places and the spelling of names but I did want to just restate that a lot of work has gone into palawa kani and the dual names which are now in place as a result of the Aboriginal Dual Naming Policy which came into effect in 2012 are just beautiful words, and I want to put them on the parliamentary Hansard: truwana is Cape Barren Island; yingina is Great Lake; taypalaka is Green Point; kunanyi is our mountain; kanamaluka is the River Tamar; pinmatik is Rocky Cape; laraturunawn is Sundown Point; titima is Trefoil Island; nungu is West Point; and there are two unbounded localities, larapuna, the Bay of Fires and putalina, Oyster Cove; and of course wukalina, Mt William on the north-east coast of Tasmania.

Many of us, including me, never call the mountain Mt Wellington anymore. I do not even call it kunanyi/Mt Wellington, I just call it kunanyi. I think in the minds of many people who live in and around the mountain it has taken on an older and deeper identity and most people I talk to when we talk about the mountain we talk about kunanyi. It is important that we understand there is a human history and connection to that mountain that goes back tens of thousands of years and dual naming pays respect to that human history. It acknowledges that the history of Tasmania did not start with the arrival of the first Europeans, and by extending dual naming across the community I strongly believe we deepen the broader community's understanding of that deep, deep human history on this island. It is an important part of that long and difficult journey towards genuine reconciliation.

The concerns that have been raised in relation to this bill - beyond proposed section 13 and its potential application until we had this amendment - are about uncertainty within some sections of the Aboriginal community about the ongoing integrity of the dual naming process. I understand that this is not a matter that falls specifically within the portfolio responsibility of Mr Barnett and that Mr Jaensch as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will have primary responsibility for the Aboriginal Dual Naming Policy, but we need some clarity on the Hansard record about the future of the Aboriginal Dual Naming Policy and ensuring that there is an integrity about the place names that are accepted by the panel that will be in place and ultimately approved by the minister. That is an important reassurance that needs to go out to the wider Aboriginal communities.

The most beautiful of all the dual names which has not been formally adopted yet is the name for this island itself, which is lutruwita - lutruwita/Tasmania - and it would do us all good to think about this island's true old name when we talk about Tasmania because, again, in my mind, Tasmania has become lutruwita/Tasmania.

I recognise that this bill establishes a place names advisory panel comprised of government and community members, chaired by the Surveyor-General. The place names advisory panel is somewhat different from the original panel that was set up under the Survey Coordination Act 1944, the provisions of which relating to nomenclature will be replaced by this legislation. One of the issues we have is that the makeup of that panel is quite different from the panel that has been proposed through this legislation. One of the saddest things about this bill is that it will remove from the statutes the word 'nomenclature', which I think is a marvellous word.

Ms Courtney - Nobody can pronounce it.

Ms O'CONNOR - I know; you spend your life trying to get it right and finally nail it and then it is removed from the statutes.

Mr Barnett - Well noted.

Ms O'CONNOR - The Survey Coordination Act established the Nomenclature Board in 1944, and there were 10 members on that board - the Surveyor-General, the chairman of the board, a senior mapping officer in the department, a senior mapping officer of the Forestry Corporation, a person nominated by the Tasmanian Planning Commission appointed by the Governor, six to be appointed by the Governor, one senior officer in Mineral Resources Tasmania, I gather, one senior officer of the Hydro-Electric Commission nominated by the commissioner; and four persons nominated by the minister who was appointed for a term of three years. The new panel is quite different in its makeup. It will consist of the Surveyor-General; a State Service employee responsible for spatial data mapping of the state, so that is similar; one person nominated by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife appointed under section 6 of the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002; one person nominated by the Local Government Association of Tasmania, continued as a body corporate by section 326 of the Local Government Act 1993, and one person with knowledge and experience in outdoor recreation.

I find this a most peculiar provision to have on a panel and I wonder if this is the minister's own suggestion, given his enthusiasm for the great outdoors and taking part in the Pollie Pedal and the like. Where did this particular provision come, particularly in light of the fact that there is no provision for an Aboriginal person to be on the panel as it stands now? We think that is a missed opportunity and disrespectful to Aboriginal people. Instead we have 'a person with knowledge and experience in outdoor recreation', so we could have someone who is the national bungee-jumping champion who, because of that, is able to nominate and be selected to be represented on the panel that decides place names in Tasmania, but we have not made provision for an Aboriginal person to be on that panel, and that is highly regrettable.

The panel would also include up to two persons with knowledge and experience in one or more of the following: heritage or historical matters, orthography, linguistics and other members may be appointed by the minister as may be prescribed. That is a different board make up. It is more contemporary arguably but it is also a bit weird in its potential insertion of the national bungee jumping champion and ignoring the Aboriginal people of Tasmania, particularly as until 1803 this was their country. It was taken away from them at the point of a musket. There was banishment to Wybalena and putalina and, as I said earlier depression, dispossession and death. This is Aboriginal land. Sure, we have been here since 1803 but there has been stalling on the return of lands. There is no apparent enthusiasm from government on negotiating a treaty with the First People of Tasmania.

There is no apparent enthusiasm from government for having our national day on any other day than the day the English arrived at Botany Cove. That is the day that Aboriginal Australians lost their country. It is not a day that we should be celebrating as our national day. Our national day should be a day which brings people together. We need to change the date.

It is very disappointing not to hear the Premier take on his federal colleagues who basically forced the Launceston City Council to conduct its Australia Day awards ceremony on 26 January. This is supposed to be a government that is 'liberal'. I use that term quite loosely, a Liberal government which out of one side of its face says it is a big backer of free speech and then out of the other, with a heavy hand, clamps down on the Launceston City Council because it wants to show respect to Aboriginal people by not having their awards day on 26 January. It is disgraceful.

We recognise that this new legislation clarifies the meaning of place; that it establishes guidelines to be endorsed by the minister. There was a copy of the Tasmanian Place Naming Guidelines. We found one from May-June this year. There is an updated Place Naming Guidelines from August. This is obviously in preparedness for the act. I found another word that I bet not many members of this place know what it means. I certainly did not until now. Place names or 'toponyms' are names of places or geographic entities and are critically important reference points for all members of the community. From natural features, such as rivers and mountains to city streets and reserves, place names are the most common way that people identify locations. Perhaps the minister could let the House know whether the Place Naming Guidelines will be updated. By interjection, is that the case?

Mr Barnett - I will let you know.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.

The rules and in some cases their guidelines surrounding place naming in Tasmania are clear. There is reference within the place naming policy to dual naming which reinstates the original intent of the dual naming policy which is that 'it apply to natural geographic and topographic features where an Aboriginal name is applied to a feature within the same extent or area as the feature that already has an existing approved name of non-indigenous origin'.

The bill also establishes processes for the submission and approval of place names. We have no issue with those processes as outlined in the bill and explained to us in some detail in the briefing. The legislation that we are debating establishes who is the relevant responsible authority for the naming of roads, streets and state highways. This is the section that Dr Broad is concerned about. We share some of those concerns.

The bill introduces penalty provisions for the deliberate misrepresentation of place names. We looked at what other states and territories do in relation to the misuse of place names. It is worth noting as a comparison.

In South Australia, the Geographical Names Act 1991establishes an offence where -

(a) Geographical name has been assigned or approved in respect of a place under this act, or

(b) A name for a place has been approved pursuant to an application made under section 12 -

A person must not produce or cause to be produced or display or cause to be displayed a document or advertisement in which another name is represented, specifically or by implication, as being the name of that place, unless the geographical name of the improved name is also prominently represented.

That has a maximum penalty attached to it of $5000, which is a fairly hefty whack. That applies to the publication in books, brochures et cetera.

In New South Wales, the Geographical Names Act 1966 also establishes an offence -

No person shall publish, or cause to be published, a name purporting to be the name of any place which has a geographical name unless the name so published is the geographical name of that place.

Every person who acts in contravention of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence against this section and shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding five penalty points.

In Queensland, hefty penalties are in place for people who knowingly and with the intent to deceive, use a name which is not the recognised name. Under the Queensland Place Names Act 1994, publishing unapproved place name -

1 A person must not, in trade or commerce -

(a) Publish a document, or

(b) Authorise the publication in a document of an advertisement or statement in which a name that is not an approved name of a place is represented as the place's name.

The maximum penalty under the Queensland legislation is 100 penalty units. Again, that is a fairly hefty fine. We would like to hear the minister explain some of the thinking about how the penalty provisions were determined.

In the briefing, we came to understand that there are a number of steps in place that the Surveyor-General's office can take in response to an entity or an individual who knowingly misuses a name in relation to a place. I trust and am sure that there will be a reasonably light touch, if you like, on an entity or a person who knowingly misuses a name, at least the first time.

Mr Barnett - I will outline that for you, the process. It is a graduated process.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, minister.

We were somewhat comforted by the explanation that was made to us by Mr Guiduchi about how the office would respond to the misuse of names. We recognise that this legislation allows the minister to make regulations and that it repeals the multiple sections of the Survey Co-ordination Act 1944 that relate to the establishment and operation of the Nomenclature Board of Tasmania.

We are not going to oppose this bill, because the concerns that have been raised have largely been addressed. We acknowledge the unease of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, particularly, in relation to changes to the Dual Naming Policy for Tasmania. We also acknowledge that despite the Premier's commitment on 26 January 2015 to reset the relationship with Aboriginal Tasmanians there has not been a reset of the relationship. What has happened is that there has been a dividing and conquering of Aboriginal people and a marginalisation of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, which for decades has represented Aboriginal people. Yes, from time to time the relationship between the TAC and government has been testy and difficult, but that is not a reason to play favourites in your dealings with Aboriginal people. I acknowledge that there were frustrations within the broader Aboriginal communities about things that have happened in the past and a feeling amongst some people within the community that they were not being heard and I want to acknowledge that TRACA, the Tasmanian regional Aboriginal groups, have formed, are strong and are working also to advance outcomes for Aboriginal people.