NSW will begin taking steps towards an Indigenous treaty in 2024.
NSW’s Aboriginal affairs minister says he aspires to pass laws setting up the framework for treaty negotiations before the next election, denying he and Premier Chris Minns weren’t on the same page.
The state is among the last Australian jurisdictions to begin a process towards treaty, something expected to take up to a decade.
David Harris revealed on Thursday that Labor was aiming to set up an independent treaty commission by mid-2024 that would guide the government’s substantive consultations with Indigenous people.
Should that roadmap and the state’s Indigenous people recommend a treaty process, Mr Harris said he aspired to bring to parliament a proposal about the process to negotiate in this term of government.
“So, you might have some form of legislation involving treaty before the next election?” Nationals MP Sarah Mitchell asked in a parliamentary hearing on Thursday.
“Yes, that’s my aspiration,” Mr Harris replied.
Mr Harris stressed he did not want to pre-empt anything ahead of full and proper consultation with Indigenous people, which was delayed due to the voice referendum.
He denied his aspiration was in conflict with Mr Minns’ comments this week that any proposed major change would be taken to the 2027 election.
“What he’s saying is that, that we would take to an election anything that was actually part of a treaty,” Mr Harris said.
“(The premier) wasn’t talking about the process. You’ve got to put in place a process for a negotiation to happen.”
Mr Minns last week said acting on recommendations from the consultative process would not necessarily be left until the next election.
However, come Monday, he was telling reporters that “major changes to our constitutional arrangements or law” would go to another election.
Mr Harris said views on what a treaty would involve varied among Indigenous communities and NSW would not emulate other states’ methods.
The state’s own Indigenous nations and organisations would decide the process, the timing and whether a treaty was even the desired outcome.
“It’s clear it’s a complex idea,” he said.
“In opposition, you have great aspirations and when you get into government, you find there is a whole range of factors that can impact on what you originally said.
“But our commitment is to have that consultation, make sure we understand fully what Aboriginal people want, and then develop our policy from that.”
Truth-telling would not be part of the $5 million committed for the treaty commission, he said.
NSW is home to 278,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and 35 Aboriginal languages.
13YARN 13 92 76
Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905