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Protection of Aboriginal Heritage

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Tags: Tasmanian Aboriginals, Aboriginal Heritage, takayna / Tarkine, Heritage


Today, you, the Leader of the Opposition, Ms White, and I will join Aboriginal community leaders and people from all over the state at the historic launch of the Reconciliation Panel of Tasmania. I am sure we can all agree the establishment of this panel represents an important opportunity for healing and to improve outcomes for Tasmania's Aboriginal people.

In an open letter made public today 20 respected Tasmanian writers, historians and publishers state:

Your intention to expand 4WD access across the takayna Aboriginal cultural landscape -

Government members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Members on my right. Silence.

Ms O'CONNOR - Authors and historians such as Pete Hay, James Boyce, Lyndall Ryan, who wrote on the great Aboriginal history, Rachael Edwards, Nick Brodie - respected Tasmanians - have said

Your intention to expand 4WD access across the takayna Aboriginal cultural landscape is entirely inconsistent with a good faith attempt to progress reconciliation.

In the interests of reconciliation, unity, equality and respect, we urge you to withdraw your plan to expand 4WD access on the takayna coast. In its place, take steps to properly protect this landscape through collaboration, co-operation and land justice.

By doing so, you will create a platform of trust and credibility upon which to build the reconciliation all Tasmanians want you to achieve.

Premier, what is your response to this letter?



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I very much look forward to being part of the launch today. I acknowledge Bill Lawson, a great, very committed and passionate Tasmanian who is seeking to advance reconciliation in line with my Government's view that it should also, ideally, include a reconciliation of Aboriginal groups and communities that exist within our state and, as much as possible, a reconciliation of views as to how to best advance improved outcomes in important areas such as health, education and employment opportunities as well as other priority issues for indigenous Tasmanians.

I also recognise that there are divergent views on how to do that and how to best manage important considerations and challenges, such as protecting Aboriginal heritage, which my Government has been very strong and determined to do through the passing of legislation.

I acknowledge the minister, Matthew Groom, and his agencies for their efforts in doing what the former government was unable to do: to bring forward to this place, and with the support of other parliamentarians, to have it pass through the parliament was a significant step forward and a demonstration of our commitment and the value that this Government places on protecting Aboriginal heritage.

It was an election promise and a commitment to the Tasmanian people to progress the opening of tracks 501, 503 and 601, most notably in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, and to do so in consultation with key stakeholders, including Aboriginal people. It also includes four-wheel drive groups and other users but in cooperation with local Aboriginal people. I note that a number of those people are broadly supportive of the Government's efforts on a number of fronts, including in this space. We are committed to working very closely to ensure that Aboriginal heritage is protected and that access to the area is facilitated in a responsible way.

We are seeking to strike an appropriate balance between recreational activities such as four-wheel driving and the protection of the very significant Aboriginal heritage and natural values of the area. We have taken a range of measures to ensure that Aboriginal heritage is protected, including the recent strengthening of laws to penalise anyone who damages Aboriginal heritage. We will soon be finalising our referral to the Commonwealth minister under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which will ensure Aboriginal heritage is properly protected. We have planned a range of measures to ensure that on the reopening of the tracks there will be appropriate protections in place. I have detailed those previously, including during the Estimates hearings, and we will have more to say about that. If anyone is wilfully damaging important valuable Aboriginal heritage, they are apprehended -

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Members opposite.

Mr HODGMAN - subject to tougher laws now because of the actions my Government has taken to strengthen the protections for our precious Aboriginal heritage.

If anyone is wondering about our commitment to do what we can to prevent people from damaging Aboriginal heritage and to penalise them with stronger sentences and measures available to our courts, have a look at the legislation that was just recently passed because that shows how seriously we take this issue. Much has been achieved in advancing reconciliation. Much more needs to be done, especially in those areas contained within the Closing the Gap report.

It is significant that we recently passed constitutional recognition and I acknowledge members of all sides of parliament coming together to work constructively to do that. We have made changes to other important areas of policy, such as eligibility for all indigenous Tasmanians to access services. We are making considerable progress on improving outdated and offensive heritage legislation. There is a lot more to be done.

I look forward to today's events. I look forward to a coming together of people. I respect the fact that there are, and perhaps always will be, divergent views on how we best advance reconciliation. This Government's track record in taking very real and practical steps in addition to the very important and historic move to include in our state's Constitution recognition of the First Tasmanians demonstrates the significance that my Government places on these things.