Image: Yvette D'ath MP (Twitter)

Queensland’s Path to Treaty Bill is high on the legislative agenda this week as politicians meet in the state’s far north for Regional Parliament.

Cairns is hosting the chamber from Tuesday to Thursday, almost four years since the previous regional sittings were held in Townsville.

The historic Path to Treaty Bill 2023 seeks to establish a 10-person First Nations Treaty Institute to help prepare and support sovereign Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland for Treaty negotiations with the state.

A five-member Truth-Telling and Healing Inquiry will also be established under the proposed law.

Member for Cook and Torres Strait Islander woman Cynthia Lui recalled a story about mass genocide that has likely never been properly recognised, told during the consultation process in Rockhampton.

“The emotions that were shared on that particular day and right throughout the committee process highlighted the true effects of intergenerational trauma,” the Labor MP said.

“There are many more stories to be told and this bill certainly opens the door for deeper meaningful conversations.”

Greens MP Michael Berkman raised several questions about the legislation while outlining his “full-throated support” for its intent.

Among his queries was whether the state government accepts that “First Nation sovereignty was never ceded and persists today, despite the Crown’s conflicting claims to sovereignty”.

The bill’s preamble states, “Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples assert they have never ceded their sovereignty”.

The legislation also does not outline the terms of reference for the Truth Telling and Healing inquiry and the consultation process failed to reach widely enough, Mr Berkman said.

Liberal National spokesman for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships, John-Paul Langbroek, said his party would not oppose the bill and sees it as an “important step forward”. 

“It’s important to acknowledge that the journey towards treaty will not be easy, and that there will be challenges along the way,” he told parliament on Tuesday.

“By committing to this process, we are acknowledging the past injustices that Indigenous peoples have faced and (are) taking steps towards a more just and equitable future.”

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford said the bill is a significant milestone in the negotiation process for a treaty or treaties.

“This will strengthen the reframing of the relationship between Queensland’s First Nations people and the wider community, as well as recognising the process of colonisation and its ongoing affects of marginalisation and disempowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.