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Tasmanian Aboriginal People

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 30 March 2023

Tags: Tasmanian Aboriginals

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

We rise to speak on the issue of Tasmanian Aboriginal people on the land of the palawa pakana people in front of the Aboriginal flag. This island is Aboriginal land. It is an Aboriginal landscape. It is country that was never ceded. It has been shaped by countless generations of Aboriginal people. Everywhere you look you can see the evidence of a people who have been here for tens of thousands of years living on, loving on and nurturing this landscape. You can see it in the grasslands, in the forests of giant regnans with rainforests underneath. You can see it across the land and the sea country, in the middens, in the hut depressions on the Tarkine coast. You can see it all over takayna, sacred Aboriginal land, one of the most important archaeological and cultural sites on the planet and recognised so on the Australian National Heritage Register.

We have here again today images of vandalism and desecration of takayna, an Aboriginal landscape. We have pictures taken by photographer Dan Broun of four-wheel drive tracks across the dunes, across and straight through the middens. It is desecration, disrespect, devastation of ancient culture. This is the same area of the north-west coast which the Hodgman Liberal government, the Gutwein Liberal government and now the Rockliff Liberal Government not only fails to protect this ancient cultural landscape but has actively fought against its protection from off-road vehicles. They took it to court. That is how much respect the Liberal Government has had for Tasmanian Aboriginal people and their priceless culture.

We have here the report that was never publicly released, undertaken by Fiona Hamilton, Aboriginal Heritage consultant and project manager, and it is the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area tracts 501, 601, 503 Review of Aboriginal Heritage and it makes it clear that Tasmanian Aboriginal people are deeply part of the story of that landscape. It talks about the national heritage value statement which focuses on the idea that during the late Holocene in north-west Tasmania, people practised a semi-sedentary way of life, supported by rich marine resources including shellfish, birds and seals. There are depressions relating to former huts that were sometimes grouped in villages, cobble beach depressions thought to be used for hunting seal, which reflect aspects of this semi-sedentary life-style and are important to protect.

This Parks and Wildlife Service-commissioned report made it absolutely oxygen clear that there was no way the Liberals could be allowed to open those tracks because of what would be profound consequent implications for Aboriginal cultural heritage. On this minister's watch, this minister for the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation, the off-road vehicles continue to drive over middens unchecked.

Mr Jaensch - That is wrong.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is not wrong, Mr Jaensch. The photographic evidence is there for us to see, it has been reported by the media and by the ABC and you, as minister, have failed to take any meaningful action to protect that cultural heritage. That country should be managed by the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania.

The reason we have brought this matter on for debate today is, in our view, a patent attempt by an organisation which has now confirmed it is not a Tasmanian Aboriginal organisation, to be given land in takayna. This Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation submission, this disrespectful racist submission, when you read it, is very clear. They want to throw out the whole process of returning land to community through the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania and they want, as a group which has established itself in the north-west, to be given parts of takayna, Preminghana et cetera.

I read again into the Hansard one of the most insulting sets of words I have ever seen in a submission to government and that is CHAC saying:

Our primary concern with the entire paper is the false premise of such a thing as a Tasmanian Aboriginal person. Our research team have provided us with evidence that the construct of a Tasmanian Aboriginal person is a fallacy.

Minister Jaensch, when he had the chance this morning, did not reject that assertion and stand by Tasmanian Aboriginal people and in doing so, he has caused harm. Although he tried to make it up later, the damage is done. He does not have the confidence of Tasmanian Aboriginal people. We as a parliament have a responsibility to recognise and respect the palawa pakana to work towards truth-telling and treaty, but you cannot do that if you have a minister who was not prepared to stand at the lectern this morning and tell the truth about how wrong the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation is.