Senate debates

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006

In Committee

9:51 am

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Mr Temporary Chairman, I was hoping the minister would respond to that contribution. I want to reiterate the point that at the heart of this clause—and it has been at the heart of a number of the debates on the bill—is the question of Aboriginal traditional owners having a say over what happens on their land. The government’s proposition fundamentally undermines traditional owners’ say over what occurs on their land—this is their property. Every measure the government takes seems to be about undermining the ability of the traditional owners to have a say over that land. This amendment seeks to provide some protection for traditional owners.

One of the issues at the heart of Aboriginal law and culture is that no Aboriginal person seeks to speak for another Aboriginal person’s land. It is a very central tenet of their culture that you do not speak for another person’s land. But this legislation is all about trying to enshrine a system, a view of the world that is a Western view of the world, about how Indigenous people ought to maintain or exercise their control over their land. The government consistently undermines the rights of traditional owners. The fundamental point that I keep trying to make is that it is their property. This is not about native title rights. This is their property—granted by the Commonwealth in recognition of their dispossession. The land is held in the name of the Aboriginal people. It is their land.

So the government is not only seeking to make arrangements which govern their land but it is also constantly seeking to undermine the capacity of traditional owners to have control over matters that affect their land. While there are tensions caused by the movement of Aboriginal people into communities which are not on their traditional land—the coming together of various peoples into communities for economic or other reasons—we are attempting with this amendment, as with the general approach to the bill, to try and ensure some capacity for traditional owners to maintain, enjoy and exercise their rights over their land. It seems to me that the government could at least make a minor concession to try and recognise their rights and provide some protection for their rights.


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