Image: Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mick Gooda discuss Queensland's path to Treaty (Annastacia Palaszczuk Facebook)
Queensland will take a major step towards a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when new legislation is introduced to state parliament.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says a five-member Truth Telling and Healing Inquiry and a First Nations Treaty Institute will be set up under the proposed laws.
“Treaties have been established over centuries and provide people of those nations, like New Zealand, a shared sense of identity and pride that we should have too,” she told business and community leaders at an event in Brisbane on Wednesday.
“But all efforts to establish one in this country have died in a desert of ignorance and indifference where they have stayed for more than 200 years.”
The terms of reference are yet to be set for the inquiry, which will have some elements of a royal commission, but Treaty Advancement Committee co-chair Mick Gooda stressed the customised model would be culturally appropriate and non-adversarial.
“We want this to be owned by the community,” he said.
The inquiry will likely focus on historic incidents rather than Queensland’s more recent past, so its unlikely those giving evidence will need amnesties from potential prosecution.
People won’t be forced to give evidence or produce documents, but governments may be compelled to provide information.
Mr Gooda said truth-telling would take the form of both the formal inquiry and community-focused processes.
“I don’t think we’ll get to the formal inquiry this year – might do – but we’ll definitely be starting local truth-telling activities almost straight away,” he said.
“What is the truth of Winton, what is the truth of Taroom, what is in Rockhampton?”
The powers, functions and composition of the new institute will be laid out in the legislation tabled next week.
The government previously committed $300 million to its Path to Treaty Fund, which will guarantee $10m a year for the proposed institute.
While the government has provided the resources to begin the journey, Mr Gooda wants it to be driven by the community.
“We’ve got to empower communities to take control of their treaties,” he said.
“We don’t even know what they’re going to put in the treaties, that’s got to emerge over time. That’s what the premier’s giving us … the resources to do it … and the time to do it.”
Mr Gooda is a former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and former Royal Commissioner into the Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
Ms Palaszczuk acknowledged the brutality of Queensland’s colonial history for Indigenous peoples in her speech, saying the path to treaty included names “history may not record”.
“The countless thousands removed from their homes and subjected to innumerable cruelties,” she said.
“Stolen wages. Forced adoptions. Deaths. These people are gone. But their stories remain.”
While each state must confront its own past, Ms Palaszczuk said it was time for all Australians to embrace an Indigenous voice to federal parliament, which will be put to a referendum later this year.
“As a nation, now is the time to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our constitution,” the premier said.
“And a voice to be heard. It is an opportunity we cannot waste.”