Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Economic Empowerment) Bill 2021; Second Reading

1:15 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act was established to give ownership back to the people of the Northern Territory. Traditional owners are still struggling to protect country and culture in a system that is stacked against them, as we have just seen in the report handed down by the Juukan inquiry. Communities still don't have the power to decide what happens on their lands; it's mining companies and governments who decide. Free, prior and informed consent means you provide all of the information available to the people that will be affected. You provide communities with the means to participate in meetings and understand the content of what is being proposed. Most importantly, free, prior and informed consent involves listening—really listening—to the communities affected. Withholding consent is a completely legitimate outcome of free, prior and informed consent.

Free, prior and informed consent has not occurred in this instance. Communities in the Northern Territory have not been heard. It was the Greens who demanded an inquiry into this bill so that community voices could be heard at all. Even the inquiry was rushed. I think we were given two hours. There were only two hours for blackfellas in the Northern Territory to provide evidence as to why this is important to them? I find that quite disrespectful in itself. That shows how much you really want to hear the voices of First Nations people in this country.

What we need is an overhaul of the whole system of how we do things. It's time to do things properly. Do you want to join in that or continue the path that both the government and the Labor Party are going down, which contravenes the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in this country? It's a simple fact that free, prior and informed consent just don't matter to some people in this place. Free, prior and informed consent are fundamental in a treaty. This is why we need a treaty and why you will hear me talk about it again and again and again and again. Free, prior and informed consent must be part of that treaty. I foreshadow a second reading amendment in my name that will educate senators. I think people actually don't know what free, prior and informed consent means, or they make up their own version of it, and it's not working.

Debate interrupted.


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