Indigenous Groups Welcome NT Treaty Commissioner
19 February 2019 at 4:53 pm
Indigenous land and reconciliation councils have welcomed Mick Dodson’s appointment as treaty commissioner of the Northern Territory, saying this will progress treaty talks between government and Indigenous people in the NT.
The former Australian of the Year’s new role, which was publicly announced on Monday, will see him consult with Aboriginal people in the NT on their support for a treaty, and develop a framework for treaty negotiations.
Dodson will have 12 months to prepare a discussion paper on the matter, and another 18 months to finalise recommendations on the best treaty model.
A Yawuru man, from the Southern Kimberley region, Dodson has been a prominent Indigenous rights activist and voice in Aboriginal affairs.
He said: “A treaty is a good place to start with addressing this unfinished business.”
But he said to move forward with a treaty, the country must first acknowledge past injustices.
“We as a nation must come face to face with our dark and traumatic history. We must confront the impact of colonisation and begin the process of acknowledgement, recognition and healing,” Dodson said.
All four NT land councils welcomed the appointment, and said it was an important step following the 2018 Barunga Agreement – a memorandum of understanding between the councils and NT government, which kick-started talks for a treaty.
John Ah Kit, interim CEO of Northern Land Council (NLC), said Dodson was the best person for the job, as he had the knowledge and understanding of the land, and what Aboriginal people wanted.
“He has proved himself to be an outstanding citizen, assisting our country to progress in many ways, particularly in bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together,” Ah Kit said.
“He knows the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and knows what Aboriginal people want. We look forward to working alongside him during the next phase of the Treaty process.”
Central Land Council (CLC) chair Francis Kelly echoed this sentiment.
“I can’t think of a better listener and advocate for our people than Mick Dodson,” Kelly said.
He also said the Barunga Agreement would be used as a roadmap for the consultations with Aboriginal Territorians.
“When we signed the agreement, last June at Barunga, we said we only bounced the ball,” he said.
“Now it’s time for all Aboriginal people to run with the ball and have their say about treaty.”
CLC CEO, Joe Martin-Jard added this was a significant achievement considering the complexity of the issue, and encouraged all Aboriginal Territorians to step up and participate.
“When you consider that these processes in other jurisdictions have taken years this was a significant achievement,” Martin-Jard said.
“Every Aboriginal person and community must now get the chance to inform themselves and put forward their views on whether or not they want a treaty and, if so, what should be covered.”
The NT government has allocated $3 million to the position and associated costs, and will appoint a part-time deputy treaty commissioner, advertised only to female candidates, in the coming weeks.