Shall there be a treaty?

Date: Oct 31, 2017

Publication Type: Newsroom

Subject: Treaty

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has committed to engaging with Northern Territory Land Councils about a possible treaty.

Central Land Council Director David Ross and Northern Land Council CEO Joe Morrison have written to Mr Gunner, wanting to “advance discussions on a treaty and commence designing a shared consultation process”.

In reply, Mr Gunner says his government is committed to progressing discussions on a treaty and that the Northern and Central Land councils “will be an important part of these discussions going forward”.

“I agree that the process of engagement around a treaty will be vital,” Mr Gunner wrote. “It is important that Aboriginal voices are heard and consultations will need to be inclusive and accessible. The Northern Territory Government is committed to working with Aboriginal people and we will take time to get this right.”

In their letter to Mr Gunner, the Land Councils said the matter of a treaty and what it comprises is “sensitive and complex”.

“The Central and Northern Land Councils have been giving some detailed consideration to what form a treaty might take in the context of the Northern Territory. It may of course be more than one treaty that is sought at the end of the process.

Land Councils have long sought a treaty, most notably with a call in 1988 through the Barunga Statement. Whilst the Barunga Statement was directed at the Commonwealth, and nearly 30 years ago, it represents treaty elements still sought after today: promotion of self-determination for our people; local decision making in our communities; land for those groups who have been dispossessed without restitution; and recognition of an Aboriginal past and a shared future,” Mr Ross and Mr Morrison wrote.

“It has become clear in our deliberations that the process of engagement in deciding the form of a treaty is of utmost importance. For a treaty to be supported and successful in its purpose, the process of initial discussions as well as later negotiations must be conducted in the spirit of the treaty that is sought.

 “In having regard to recent and concurrent consultation processes on state based treaties and Commonwealth Constitutional recognition, we believe there is merit in examining the consultation process the Referendum Council undertook, in particular the convening of regional and national dialogues across the country with First Nations people. Whilst this process may not be fully adaptive to the

Northern Territory treaty context, we do believe there are some significant principles from those consultations that should inform the development of a consultation process on a treaty in the Northern Territory.

“Principles we consider important in designing a consultation process going forward include:

  • Primary discussions on a treaty are held between Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory.
  • Discussions between Aboriginal people be supported by a well-resourced, government funded, independent Aboriginal secretariat.
  • Discussions between Aboriginal people are deliberative and focused on reaching consensus on particular positions with respect to a treaty.
  • Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory may hold differing views on a treaty and may need different ways and time to work through the related issues.
  • There is an open formula for invitations to participate in discussions so they are transparent and inclusive.
  • The Northern Territory Government must not preclude anything from being part of a treaty until initial discussions with Aboriginal people are concluded, and the Northern Territory Government shows leadership in this regard.
  • Negotiations on a treaty with the Northern Territory Government are to be led by Aboriginal delegates arising from the Aboriginal led preliminary discussions. In these negotiations, a mechanism and time be built in for ongoing consultations between Aboriginal people on significant decisions and a formal proposal.”

Published in Land Rights News northern Edition October 2017

Land Rights News Northern Edition October 2017

Australia's longest-running Aboriginal newspaper, telling stories from remote Aboriginal lands from across the Northern Territory.

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